By Airman 1st Class Jonathan Whitely | 50th Space Wing Public Affairs
SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — In an effort to protect those serving, the 50th Space Wing is giving away free gun-locks to Team Schriever members as a part of the Time Based Prevention Program.
“The idea is to slow people down from that thought of taking a suicidal action, so they have more space between stimulus and response,” said Jessica Ditson, 50th Space Wing violence prevention integrator. “Creating that space can save a life.”
Ditson said anyone who has access to the installation can receive a gun-lock, whether they’ve had suicidal thoughts or not. The goal is to create a safer environment for Airmen and their families.
“We want to keep everyone on Schriever safe,” she said. “Whether that be government service employees, active duty, guard, reserve, sister service, tenant unit or mission partners; however we want to frame it, everyone who works here will have access to them.”
The first 500 locks were provided by The Department of Veterans Affairs. Airmen can receive one from the First Sergeants, the Violence Prevention Office and the Mental Health Clinic.
“If you can get a gun lock from us for free, great,” he said. “If not, consider buying some or getting a safe,” said Maj. Louis Pagano, 21st Medical Squadron director of psychological health, chief of mental services. “Whether you have a single gun or many, safes, locks and storing guns outside the home works. Even if you’ve never had thoughts of suicide before, it may save a family member of yours or a friend that’s visiting your home.”
Pagano said one of the purposes of providing locks is to promote a culture where safe storage of firearms is acceptable and commonplace.
“Nothing is stopping [Airmen] from unlocking [their guns],” he said. “However, a few extra [moments] of having to unlock something has been shown to be enough time for someone to think differently or stop the impulse to end their life.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. resulting in one death every 11 minutes.
“After experiencing a loss, you’ll often hear ‘I didn’t see the signs’ or ‘I didn’t see it coming,’” Ditson said. “You can help protect someone in crisis. Having a lock on a firearm can save them, and if it saves one person, it’s worth handing them out.”
Ditson said someone dying by suicide can have a serious affect, not just on one’s family but community.
“There are long-term effects to coworkers, friends, family and children,” she said. “The closer you were to someone who died by suicide, the higher your risk to die by suicide becomes because it can seem like an option that works.”
This is why Ditson organized the Heartbeat Group on Schriever AFB. The group serves to help survivors absorb the impact of self-inflicted death, to offer the comfort of empathetic understanding and acceptance, and to support each other through healthy grief management.
“There are no set characteristics [of someone contemplating suicide],” Ditson said. “It’s different for everyone, so we must invest in everybody, because you never know when someone needs to hear they’re important, necessary and not a burden. Every Airman is important, every Airman matters. We’re the nation’s sons and daughters, and it’s our responsibility to take care of each other and this is another avenue to do so.”
If in need of mental health assistance, call 567-4357 (HELP) to reach out to the Behavioral Health Optimization Program, the Mental Health Clinic, Chaplains, the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment, the Family Advocacy Program, Military One Source, the Airman and Family Readiness Center, your supervision team or first sergeant.