"Just be there for them"

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Jarad A. Denton
  • 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
"I love you and the kids but I just can't live with myself anymore. I'm over-whelmed with life. I hurt - my head, my throat, my guts. I can't think straight anymore. I'm overwhelmed at work. I have become ineffective. I need sleep. I'm sorry!"

This 26-year old Airman battled with depression over his work and marriage before leaving this note and taking his own life.

His words have been printed in Chapter 53 of the Basic Military Training Guide - Suicide Awareness and Prevention, as a reminder to Airmen of the seriousness of this issue.

"It's always frustrating when we are made aware of an Airman who completed suicide or made an attempt," said Lt. Col. Scott Krebs, 28th Medical Operations Squadron mental health flight chief. "This is because everyone can be helped, and there are so many resources available both in the Air Force system and in the local community that there is no reason anyone should ever feel that there are no solutions to whatever the problem is they are dealing with."

Colonel Krebs said Airmen are able to seek help on base from their primary care doctor, the chapel and mental health. Off base resources include:

· www.Militaryonesource.com or (800) 342-9647 can provide Airmen with helpful information and the ability to see a counselor off base for 12 free visits

· TriWest Behaviorial Health Portal at www.triwest.com/bh, and their contact center are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at (888) 874-9378.

· The Crisis Hotline at (866) 284-3743 or (605) 385-HELP provides Airmen someone to listen when they need a sympathetic ear.

· There are also more than 50 mental health providers available in the civilian community who work with the Tricare network. However, to take advantage of this service, Airmen first need a referral from mental health.

However, one of the most important resources available to Airmen who battle with suicidal thoughts can be a good wingman.

Colonel Krebs encourages good wingmen to "just be there for them. Get to know their habits and personal issues that are going in their life, and ask how they are doing. If they seem down, their behavior changes or you know they are going through a difficult life stressor, let them know you are concerned. Be direct. Ask if they are thinking about suicide."

While behavior varies from person to person, Colonel Krebs said the troubled Airmen will almost always show some signs or behavioral change indicating they are contemplating suicide.

"They may become more withdrawn or seem depressed, or just talk about life as a struggle - not being rewarding or fun anymore," he said. "However, some do not give any clear signs and hide their misery from others."

He said all Airmen are encouraged to follow the ACE acronym:

· Ask how the Airman is doing and ask about suicide.

· Care about them and show genuine concern.

· Escort the Airman to a helping agency.

ACE is designed to provide help and support to any Airman, regardless of rank - and goes a long way to averting a potential tragedy.

"The threat has gotten higher, and just like any other threat to our Airmen and the mission, we must continue to raise our awareness and response to counter this threat," said Col. Jeffrey Taliaferro, 28th Bomb Wing commander. "Every Airman is too valuable to lose."