By Robb Lingley
21st Space Wing Public Affairs
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — September is Suicide Prevention Month at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, and Tricare officials want beneficiaries to be aware of the importance of seeking help. Suicide prevention is the responsibility of everyone, from the newest trainee to the most senior Airman.
“Suicidal behaviors are more common when there are risk factors and risk situations involved,” said Michel Cremeans, 21st Force Support Squadron violence prevention integrator. “Some risk factors we can help reduce and some we may not be able to control.”
The best way to prevent suicide is to notice, then act on, the warning signs. For example, people may speak constantly about suicide or death or show signs of unhappiness. They might call or visit family or friends to say “goodbye” or give away personal possessions. They may have unusual mood swings or express wishing they had a way out.
“Drug or alcohol abuse is another critical indicator that a person may be dealing with issues that could lead to self-harm,” said Creameans.
In recent years the Air Force revised its suicide prevention strategy, focusing on culture, problem solving, overall fitness, resilience, and care for those in distress. Air Force leaders believe using a strength-based approach for suicide prevention may help Total Force Airmen (Active duty, Air Force Civilians, Reserve and Air National Guard) consider and pursue positive options instead of self-defeating behaviors.
“Protective factors such as support from family, friends or other significant relationships, community involvement, and religious, culture, and ethnic beliefs are all things that we as a community can support and reinforce,” Creameans said.
A prime opportunity for everyone to focus on strengthening those protective factors is during 21st Space Wing Wingman Day Oct. 27, 2017.
“Wingman Day is a chance for units to step back and take a moment to reflect on how to take care of ourselves and others better,” said Cremeans. “This doesn’t have to be just on Wingman day and needs to be incorporated as a norm to where it’s not just a twice-a-year event, but a culture of being there for each other whether military, civilian, or family member.”
Air Force commanders, leaders, supervisors, spokespersons, and Total Force Airmen should actively engage internal audiences through messages and programs focusing on resiliency, according to Air Force Public Affairs. Additionally, they must consider the best ways to utilize the communication tools and applications at their disposal to help promote effective suicide prevention.
“If you’re concerned about a friend or family member talk with them,” said Cremeans. “Conversation can help to figure out if there’s something wrong. Showing concern can help an individual open up and admit they’re having issues.
For more information about suicide prevention and additional resources visit the Air Force Medical Service Suicide Prevention page, or the U.S. Wingman Online page at https://www.wingmanonline.org/Home.
If you are having suicidal thoughts or are worried that some you know may be about to engage in self-harm, call the Military Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and press “1” for assistance.
Tricare Prime family members and retirees can also receive the first eight private-sector outpatient behavioral health care visits per fiscal year from a network provider without a referral from a primary care manager or prior authorization from their managed care support contractor visit http://www.tricare.mil for more information on behavior health issues.