HomeMediaArticle Display

Suicide prevention: getting help doesn't have to hurt

SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. -- Four months into 2012 more than 20 U.S. Air Force Airmen faced with the decision of seeking help or ending their life chose a quick, permanent solution to their problems, suicide.

The mental health clinic staff and base chaplains offer support for Airmen who are contemplating suicide to keep this number from inflating further.

"If you're having thoughts of death or suicide come in and get the help now. Most likely (asking for help) is not going to affect your career," said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Lisa Bader, 4th Medical Operations Squadron mental health flight commander. "We want people to come in while they're still able to do the mission, that's why we're here."

Bader stresses that visiting mental health is rarely career threatening and that coming in for help voluntarily is the best case scenario.

"When people come in for treatment voluntarily, do their homework and make the improvements they want to make, they always talk about how much better they feel when they leave," she said.

While the decision to accept assistance ultimately falls upon the member, the wingman concept is important to recognizing a potential problem. Wingmen should be on the lookout for emotional changes in their friends and coworkers.

Bader said some potential risk signs wingmen should look for include a noticeable change in drinking patterns, work performance, and someone losing interest in their appearance.

"Big changes in behavior may not mean someone is suicidal, but it likely means there's something going on in their life and it's worth asking the question, 'Hey, what's going on? You don't seem like yourself,'" Bader said.

U.S. Air Force Chap. (Capt.) Thomas Baize, 4th Fighter Wing Protestant chaplain, echoed the difficulty of recognizing a potential risk for suicide. To aid the wing's Airmen he has implemented the SafeTALK program. SafeTALK, which stands for Suicide alertness for everyone, Tell, Ask, Listen, KeepSafe, trains Airmen to be approachable and openly discuss suicide.

"People who are (suicidal) need to feel they have a place to go," Baize said. "SafeTALK provides that safe place to go and get help. We make ourselves available and approachable so people can get help and maintain their dignity while doing so. Hopefully people will take advantage of the program."

SafeTALK also teaches recognition to prevent suicide.

"If somebody is contemplating suicide, we want (wingmen) to be able to recognize the symptoms and learn what circumstances and reactions equal a risk of suicide," the chaplain said. "We train people not for intervention, but for recognition. That way when there is a problem, they can recognize it and get the person at risk to the people at the professional level."

Even if Airmen aren't comfortable speaking to a SafeTALK representative, Baize said they can always come and talk to a chaplain and have absolute confidentiality with anything they discuss.

"The people who need help the most want it the least. It's difficult to get people proactive about these kinds of issues because they are in denial and afraid to admit the problems," Baize said. "In all of the suicides I've dealt with, I've never had someone who I was actively counseling commit suicide. When people get help, they make it through."

Original content found here.
USAF Comments Policy
If you wish to comment, use the text box below. AF reserves the right to modify this policy at any time.

This is a moderated forum. That means all comments will be reviewed before posting. In addition, we expect that participants will treat each other, as well as our agency and our employees, with respect. We will not post comments that contain abusive or vulgar language, spam, hate speech, personal attacks, violate EEO policy, are offensive to other or similar content. We will not post comments that are spam, are clearly "off topic", promote services or products, infringe copyright protected material, or contain any links that don't contribute to the discussion. Comments that make unsupported accusations will also not be posted. The AF and the AF alone will make a determination as to which comments will be posted. Any references to commercial entities, products, services, or other non-governmental organizations or individuals that remain on the site are provided solely for the information of individuals using this page. These references are not intended to reflect the opinion of the AF, DoD, the United States, or its officers or employees concerning the significance, priority, or importance to be given the referenced entity, product, service, or organization. Such references are not an official or personal endorsement of any product, person, or service, and may not be quoted or reproduced for the purpose of stating or implying AF endorsement or approval of any product, person, or service.

Any comments that report criminal activity including: suicidal behaviour or sexual assault will be reported to appropriate authorities including OSI. This forum is not:

  • This forum is not to be used to report criminal activity. If you have information for law enforcement, please contact OSI or your local police agency.
  • Do not submit unsolicited proposals, or other business ideas or inquiries to this forum. This site is not to be used for contracting or commercial business.
  • This forum may not be used for the submission of any claim, demand, informal or formal complaint, or any other form of legal and/or administrative notice or process, or for the exhaustion of any legal and/or administrative remedy.

AF does not guarantee or warrant that any information posted by individuals on this forum is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. AF may not be able to verify, does not warrant or guarantee, and assumes no liability for anything posted on this website by any other person. AF does not endorse, support or otherwise promote any private or commercial entity or the information, products or services contained on those websites that may be reached through links on our website.

Members of the media are asked to send questions to the public affairs through their normal channels and to refrain from submitting questions here as comments. Reporter questions will not be posted. We recognize that the Web is a 24/7 medium, and your comments are welcome at any time. However, given the need to manage federal resources, moderating and posting of comments will occur during regular business hours Monday through Friday. Comments submitted after hours or on weekends will be read and posted as early as possible; in most cases, this means the next business day.

For the benefit of robust discussion, we ask that comments remain "on-topic." This means that comments will be posted only as it relates to the topic that is being discussed within the blog post. The views expressed on the site by non-federal commentators do not necessarily reflect the official views of the AF or the Federal Government.

To protect your own privacy and the privacy of others, please do not include personally identifiable information, such as name, Social Security number, DoD ID number, OSI Case number, phone numbers or email addresses in the body of your comment. If you do voluntarily include personally identifiable information in your comment, such as your name, that comment may or may not be posted on the page. If your comment is posted, your name will not be redacted or removed. In no circumstances will comments be posted that contain Social Security numbers, DoD ID numbers, OSI case numbers, addresses, email address or phone numbers. The default for the posting of comments is "anonymous", but if you opt not to, any information, including your login name, may be displayed on our site.

Thank you for taking the time to read this comment policy. We encourage your participation in our discussion and look forward to an active exchange of ideas.

Department of the Air Force does not exercise any responsibility or oversight of the content at external link destination.

The appearance of external hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the United States Department of Defense of linked web sites or the information, products, or services contained therein. For other than authorized activities such as military exchanges and morale, welfare and recreation sites, the United States Department of Defense does not exercise any editorial control over the information you may find at these locations. All links are provided consistent with the mission of this web site.