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NEWS | Sept. 18, 2013

You are not alone: September, Suicide Prevention Month

By Senior Airman Ashlee Galloway Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

There is a predator looming over the United States Armed Forces, stealing lives of honorable service members every year.

It is not concerned if you have a family at home, whether you're male or female - if you just started your career or just finishing it.

"Suicide is a massive problem that is affecting the total force of the military," said Maj. Daniel Michel, 628th Mental Health Flight Commander clinical psychologist. "We don't need to focus on just getting our total force through a training program; we need to change the Air Force and military culture on how people view suicide. Make them see and feel comfortable about discussing the topic so co-workers know when things aren't right; that is the essential factor in eliminating this."

In 2012, there were 98 suicides in the Air Force, including active duty, pending active duty, Air National Guard, Reserve and civilian work force, there have been 63 in 2013.

"It's a factor that not only affects the individual but it affects families, friends and co-workers as well," said Michel. "I believe people just don't know the correct avenues to get away from this problem, they feel suicide is their only way out, and it's not."

There are many avenues throughout the military that can help assist service members and their fmailies, avenues that can help someone mentally, physically, spiritually, or even socially. But people just have to take that step, that leap of faith and go.

"There are a lot of people and hotlines you can contact regarding suicide prevention," said Michel. "You can contact us here at mental health, the Behavioral Help Optimization Program, the National Suicide Prevention lifeline via phone or text, and for an online web chat."

If you feel as though your problems pertain to more physical features and are down about your weight, or "don't believe you are fit for fight" then you can talk to the Health and Wellness Center or base fitness center. The HAWC and fitness center can offer advice to help Airmen reach their fitness goals.

"We offer a wide variety of programs at the HAWC," said Nikki Conley, Health Promotion manager. "We have relaxation and sleep deprivation classes, DVDs and books on meditation and yoga, nutrition and weight management classes that focus on behavior and how to change your daily habits and even classes that help you pass your physical fitness test with the aim of working on strength training and running."

Help does not end there.

If you feel spiritually depressed, there are chaplains on base who can speak with you and offer full confidentiality.

"Chaplains are the '911' of the military when it comes to suicide counseling," said Maj. Daniel Thompson, 628 Air Base Wing chaplain. "One of our key assets that differs from other organizations is we have 100 percent privilege communication when someone comes to us about suicide ideation. We as chaplains have absolute protection for service members, therefore, offer unbridled support."

Moving to different bases constantly can take a toll on you mentally and socially. If you are having trouble meeting new people or making new friends, then the Single Airmen Initiative is a great place to start.

"Our goal with SAI is to foster a strong culture mission and sense of community for single Airmen," said Eryn Pope. "The program focus on the single Airmen, but this program is open to everyone. Anyone can sign up for any activities and events we may have. By providing events where Airmen can interact with one another and leadership, we hope to make a better quality of life for each individual and make them better in life."

Whether you fall under the mental, physical, spiritual or social pillar of CAF, there is help out there for you, something for everyone to take part in that will help them find themselves and show them their purpose here on this earth.

Ask for or find help, you are not alone.

-Mental health on Joint Base Charleston Air Base: 843-963-6852.
-Menatl health on JB Charleston Weapons Station: 843-794-6450
-Behavioral Help Optimization Program on JB Charleston AB (BHOP): walk-in or call appointment line at 843-963-6880.
- National Suicide Prevention lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
Help via SMS message: 838255
-Visit for more information or if you would like to web chat with an individual