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Combating suicide: What can I do today?

Resilience is defined as how one “deals effectively with pressure, ambiguous and emerging conditions, and multiple tasks; remains optimistic and persistent, even under adversity or uncertainty. Recovers quickly from setbacks. Anticipates changes and learns from mistakes.” (Defense Logistics Agency graphic)

Resilience is defined as how one “deals effectively with pressure, ambiguous and emerging conditions, and multiple tasks; remains optimistic and persistent, even under adversity or uncertainty. Recovers quickly from setbacks. Anticipates changes and learns from mistakes.” (Defense Logistics Agency graphic)

KIRTLAND AIR FORC BASE, N.M. -- Multiple Air Force initiatives are working toward a common goal: Empowering leaders and Airmen to increase morale, cohesion, and readiness by recognizing when Airmen need help, decreasing barriers to help-seeking, and creating a culture in which Airmen and their families thrive.

‘What can I do today?’ is the question Brig. Gen. Thomas Owens, assistant to the commander, Air Force Global Strike Command, invites everyone to ask themselves to help combat suicide.

Owens offers four actionable steps individuals can take to advance to this goal. First, create spaces that are inclusive and within which people feel a sense of belonging. Next, communicate in a way in which people feel valued and their contributions are meaningful. Be sure to set norms that convey intolerance of any form of harassment or interpersonal violence. And last, establish the expectation that everyone is responsible for preventing negative outcomes; everyone is expected to do their part.

“The small choices that foster a culture of help-seeking and connectedness can seem disconnected from stopping an assault or suicide,” said Owens. “Cultural norms will only be established by of a lot of people making these choices every day.”

To help establish norms that contribute to a culture in which everyone thrives, Owens suggests that starting the conversation about seeking aid can help.

“Talk about times of struggle and the help—mental, physical, spiritual, social—that helped you get through it,” said Owens. “Encourage Airmen to seek help early and dispel the myth that seeking help will have a negative career impact on the individual seeking aid.”

In addition to seeking aid from professionals, taking personal time for self-care is essential to comprehensive fitness, overall health and combatting suicide.

“Self-care is essential to leading effectively and to our ability to create a culture in which Airmen and families thrive,” said Owens. “Balance is often elusive in the face of the demands of personal and professional commitments and responsibilities. However, research is clear that as stress increases, our ability to cope with stressors decreases and often maladaptive behaviors increase.”

If self-care is not a priority, individuals are placed in jeopardy of making poor decisions, according to Owens. He suggests a 2-10-5-7 model as a way to practice self-care.

“Aim for this balance each day,” said Owens. “Two hours of ‘me time’, ten hours of work, 5 hours unplugged, and 7 hours of sleep. While this may not be achievable every day, this formula helps guide how allocation of time each day to maintain balance.”

In addition to the self-care model, Owens proposes that self-reflection can not only help the individual, but those around them. “Take an honest assessment of your physical, mental, spiritual and social health and seek help when needed,” said Owens.

“Your self-care is contagious and will motivate and inspire others self-care. Choose a mentor that exhibits strong well-being and be a well-being mentor for others.”

For more information on combating suicide, self-care, prevention, intervention and resiliency, visit www.resilience.af.mil.