JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. --
Suicide rates are constantly on the minds of Air Force senior leaders.
An Air Force veteran talked with senior leaders, officer and enlisted, from across Air Combat Command regarding suicide and prevention methods during a recent conference at Langley Air Force Base, Va.
Belinda G. Moss, a 17-year Air Force retiree, offered insight on suicide in the military, and discussed methods to help prevent suicide within the service. The source of Moss' motivation stemmed from her personal battle with depression and suicide.
As a major, Moss attempted suicide. She told leaders about one of two suicide attempts when she felt the pressures of life were stacking up to a point where she could not handle it anymore.
"I took a .357 Magnum to my head and pulled the trigger, but it didn't go off," said Moss, who has a doctorate in clinical counseling. Moss said she understands what causes Airmen to commit suicide and is now talking about her survival in order to assist those still in uniform.
One of the ways Moss helps others is by traveling to military bases and speaking out about her battle with depression and suicide. She recalled several instances people shared their stories after hearing her speak - some revealing that her discussions saved their lives.
Moss recounts a conversation with a first sergeant at a base exchange where the senior NCO approached her and said, " 'It's amazing that you're here, because I came to this base exchange to get some things together. Because when I left here, I was going to commit suicide. And you talked me out of it.' "
ACC suicide deaths have decreased from 14 in 2010 to 10 in 2011, however the command currently has 7 suicide deaths within 2012.
There are several ways the command is educating Airmen on suicide. Organizations such as family medicine, mental health, the chaplaincy and others at bases across the command have trained professionals to help anyone who is dealing with depression or thoughts of suicide.
Air Force leaders believe one of the most important preventative measures to suicide is the wingman concept, practiced by stepping up, reporting and helping to prevent fellow Airmen from taking their own lives.
The Comprehensive Airman Fitness program has a myriad of resources for mental, physical, social and spiritual fitness. The CAF website is easily accessible through the ACC website, and contains detailed information about base organizations, resources and contact information for anyone seeking to learn more about suicide prevention.
Moss said suicide in the military may never disappear, but people can help decrease the risk factors associated with suicide by looking at the root cause.
According to Moss, Airmen must understand that it is not pressure that causes suicide, but "an emotional pattern that they've been dealing with most of their lives."
Moss offers a program that teaches Airmen how to understand and change their emotional pattern.
"If we can teach them self-awareness and personal mastery, then we can stop it," Moss said. "How masterful you are on the outside depends on the degree of mastery you have on the inside."
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