Thanks for Speaking Up - We're Listening

  • Published
  • By Col. Jeffrey Taliaferro
  • 28th Bomb Wing commander
Since the beginning of the New Year we've had eight Airmen come forward to let us know they were considering suicide. First of all, thanks to those eight for having the courage to come forward. These folks were far from perfect--just like the rest of us. They were real people dealing with real problems. But since they've come forward we've been able to connect them to a variety of agencies to get them the help they needed.

As we discussed at the wing commander's call two weeks ago, this should remind us of the increased suicide threat we're facing. Team Ellsworth lost four Airmen to suicide last year--four too many. Our threat of suicide more than doubled in the Fall of 2008 and, while improving slightly in the last quarter of 2009, has stayed high. We must continue to raise our awareness and response to counter this threat, especially in a turbulent period with a high number of Airmen deploying and redeploying.

While these eight Airmen had different problems and needed different kinds of help, they had one important factor in common--they had a wingman that did the right thing when they had the opportunity. Remember, the back of your wingman card has the key questions you need to ask when faced with someone considering suicide. Be direct, "Are you thinking about suicide?" Also ask, "Have you attempted suicide, or do you have a suicide plan?" If the answer to either is yes, contact your first sergeant or commander and don't leave the person alone until help arrives.

So thanks to those troubled Airmen who had the courage to speak up. They're now on the long road to recovery. Thanks also to the wingmen who helped us identify the problem, and got with their first sergeant and commander, and broke the accident chain. Every Airmen is too valuable to lose--every one.