NEWS | Sept. 2, 2014

Early intervention key in preventing suicide

By Tech.Sgt. Jason Gilbert 628th Medical Operations Squadron Mental Health flight chief

According to data from the Department of Defense, suicide is the second leading cause of death for U.S. military personnel, surpassed only by unintentional injury. Awareness of suicide and the risk factors associated with suicide are vital to the prevention of such loss of life and its traumatic consequences for our families and our communities. How do we know when someone is in significant distress? A misconception is suicide occurs with little or no warning when in fact there are often many clues someone may be in distress or at risk. The most commonly associated factor with suicide in the Air Force are problems in intimate relationships, including marital and dating relationships. Other high risk factors include abuse of alcohol or other substances, financial and legal problems, few social ties or loneliness, prolonged unmanageable stress and feelings of depression or worthlessness. Another misconception about suicide is that those who talk about suicide will not do it. A key signal of distress is obsessing or talking about death, dying and violence as well as purchasing firearms or other weapons. Withdrawing from friends and family or suddenly making amends with others, sudden changes in behavior, loss of interest in work or usual activities and giving away possessions are also possible signs. What can we do to help? There is a belief that if we talk about suicide with someone, it will give that person the idea to harm themselves, or there is nothing we can do to change their mind. But in fact, talking with someone directly about suicide is among one of the most helpful things you can do. Most people contemplating suicide are seeking an end to the emotional pain they are experiencing, not an end to life. Talking may open doors to assistance to help them through their distress. The key to suicide prevention is early intervention. Seeking assistance for ourselves and encouraging others to do the same when having difficulty coping helps prevent more serious problems from developing. Joint Base Charleston offers numerous sources of assistance including the Mental Health Clinic, Chaplains, Family Advocacy Programs, Airman and Family Readiness Center and/or Fleet and Family Support Center, supervisors. If serious warning signs are present, including threats of suicide with a plan, do not leave the person alone. Call 911 or seek emergency services immediately. The prevention of suicide lies with everyone within our JB Charleston community. Reaching out to one another builds strong communities and families and ultimately saves lives. If you would like more information on services/classes provided, contact the Mental Health Clinic at 963-6852 and our staff would be happy to assist you.