JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. —
Suicide Awareness Month is every September and the mental health clinic at Joint Base Charleston, S.C., is leading the way, along with other helping agencies, such as the community action team, to help raise awareness on the matter for the base.
Tech. Sgt. Maranda Guittar, NCO in charge of mental health assigned to the 628th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron, is helping the team raise awareness, not only for people going through hard times, but also for peers, family and friends who may not be, but who can look out for those who are.
“Maybe someone themselves don’t struggle with suicidal thoughts, but warning signs to look out for are distancing themselves from activities they used to care about, they could be really reclusive and it has nothing to do with quarantine,” said Guittar. “Any drastic change in behavior is something we have to look out for.”
Since the start of the new normal with COVID-19, mental health has opened more slots for intakes to be more available for the base populous.
“With COVID and the fallout we’ve seen from quarantine we have seen an uptick in need for services so we instituted a group where individuals meet for four weeks and focus on adjustment issues, problem solving skills and things of that nature,” said Guittar. “Groups tend to be more successful because you can hear from your peers and have a support system as opposed to a doctor.”
During suicide awareness month, along with looking out for the usual signs of others, Guittar and her team are also pushing a different angle to help people better take care of themselves.
“The big thing we want to push this month is self-care and normalization,” said Guittar. “A lot of people are stressed right now, whether it’s about sending their kids back to school or homeschooling and everything else going on in the world, taking time for self-care is so important especially right now.”
Guittar and her team also are trying to spread the message to not get too caught up in things you can’t control.
“Something we’ve pushed out when all of this started was to not create your own fear factor,” said Tech. Sgt. Brett Chapman, NCO in charge of alcohol and drug abuse prevention and treatment assigned to the 628th OMRS. “Don’t binge watch the news and psych yourself out.”
Speaking of not scaring yourself, another “glass half-full” outlook they want people to have is to see all the “cans” people can still do.
“We’ve been told for so long the things we can’t do, but we are trying to put more focus on the things we can do,” said Staff Sgt. Christopher Leung, mental health technician 628th Aerospace Medicine Squadron. “Getting those interactions as much as possible while still being safe is so important.”
Guittar has personal experience with when it comes to her views about suicide prevention, so she is taking her responsibility seriously to help the cause.
“I’ve had patients who had suicide attempts that were stopped and they ended up being happy they were,” said Guittar. “You never know when you’re going to be someone’s interaction that keeps them from trying to hurt themselves again.”
Although the people at mental health and other helping agencies are the professionals, they teach these things to people so everyone can look out for wingmen they know better than the health technicians ever could.
“Here at mental health we genuinely care about our patients but we aren’t the ones around these Airmen every day, said Guittar. “The people you work with need to know these warning signs and habits so they can identify them before it’s possibly too late.”
For any help regarding mental health they can be reached at (843)963-6852.