National Suicide Prevention Week

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JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- National Suicide Prevention Week is Sept. 10-16.

Our Air Force Reserve mission is to provide combat-ready forces to fly, fight and win. We know our reservists constantly and consistently train to be mission ready -- ensuring their own knowledge, skills and abilities and then combining them with team training to be successful in battle. However, not all battles are fought on the battlefield, and sometimes we keep our battles to ourselves -- a practice that in and of itself, can be part of an individual’s challenge. Why?

We don’t talk about it. Words like “mental” and “psychological” can still make people pause, raise their hands and shake their heads indicating there is nothing they need. It is the stigma -- the worry that a person will be judged as unable to take care of self, loved ones, coworkers, the mission, etc. It is a belief we need to change.

Think about how easily we talk about our physical health -- what healthy foods we choose, how often we work-out, the exercises we do, our goal weight, the type of muscle we want to build up, improving our sleep, etc.

We also tend to speak freely about our social health--easily discussing where we like to go, who we go with, and where we want to go next. Those lists can be almost endless.

Fortunately, we are having more conversations about mental health and preventing suicides. While they may be uncomfortable at times, each of us must continue to take care of ourselves and each other.

Consider Patrick Henry’s comments to the 1775 Virginia House of Burgess encouraging taking action and not fighting battles alone, specifically recommending forces be strong, vigilant, active, and brave. Those principles still apply today.

As strength is the ability to withstand great force or pressure, it definitely includes mental and emotional fitness. Think about the demands of your life at work, in society and at home. Strength is not just about holding something up alone, it is recognizing stress, identifying a need and accepting assistance.

As individuals, we all need people in our lives and communities who can help. Typically as wingmen, we readily offer help when we notice an Airman literally carrying a physical load that seems to exceed his or her ability to handle it; so let's expand that offer to include a fellow airman who is struggling with “mental and emotional” burdens.

So, be vigilant. Often, we know when we are stressed and it is our responsibility to take care of it. However, sometimes we are “too close” to a situation, or the circumstances can be too overwhelming. We may become irritable or just “shut down;” but when we have a strong wingman, that person will recognize it and offer support.

Once that need is identified, we are in a better position to take action, like using good coping strategies, talking to loved ones, or seeking help. As a vigilant wingman, we must remain connected to others and act accordingly; because not only does it help the one but it strengthens the community and supports readiness.

So, be brave! Challenge yours and others’ perspective of mental health. Add to the list of what you do take care of your own. Invite and encourage conversations about mental and emotional well-being. Turn to family, friends, your wingman, your community and helping agencies when needed. Be vigilant and take action for yourself and your team.

“. . .That is what’s so special about the Profession of Arms…We’re in this together, and we’re never alone.”
- Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force James A. Cody


Resources:

AFCS Information/Services 253-982-5496
American Red Cross 1-877-272-7337
Chaplains 253-982-6955
Director of Psychological Health 253-982-5496
Military One Source 1-800-342-9647
MOS Crisis Talk Line 1-800-273-8255