Recognize the symptoms: Know your wingmen, save a life

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Cierra Presentado
  • 36th Wing Public Affairs

According to defense department data, 275 active-duty service members committed suicide in 2015.

National Suicide Prevention Month is observed to bring special attention to the subject. The month aims to bring awareness to suicide and the serious effects it has on families and friends. Military members are often faced with stress for many reasons ranging from deployments to work and family life, which often leads to depression. Seeking help from base agencies, friends or finding other ways to deal with stress and depression such as exercise or meditation can assist in overcoming depression and the thought of suicide.

“Meditation is one of the most calming practices to do when one is feeling depressed or stressed out,” said Daniel Scaorla, investigator, 36th Wing Air Force Office of Special Investigations, Detachment 602. “During suicide prevention awareness week, I guided a meditation seminar where I taught the three stages of meditation, which have been proven to reduce stress and anxiety and even thoughts of suicide. Meditating has helped me tremendously in my past so I would like to pay it forward by sharing it with others. This is just one way to overcome depression, but the first step is to seek help and talk to someone.”

The Department of Defense continues to focus on total force fitness programs designed to build physical, mental and spiritual resiliency within military members and their families. Programs focus on education and training for leadership and teams to proactively recognize signs of suicide and to encourage communication among one another.

“Depression and suicidal thoughts know no boundaries,” said Capt. Keith Manry, a 36th Wing chaplain. “They impact all ages, ranks, races and religions. No one has found a way to forecast where those thoughts will next strike, so the only way to save the lives of those who might fall into hopelessness is to be constantly aware of those around us. We need to look out not only for our Wingmen, but for our neighbors, our coworkers and those closest to us. If we take the time to care, we can head off the downward spiral that leads too many to choose to end their lives. Whether you are the one struggling with despair or you know someone who is, it's imperative that you are familiar with the resources that are available to you. Remember there are always options and there is always hope!”

While it may be difficult to recognize someone who is depressed or having suicidal thoughts, some signs to look out for include:

- Expressing sadness often
- Anxiety and agitation
- Deteriorating physical appearances and neglect of personal welfare
- Sleeping all the time, or having trouble sleeping
- Withdrawing from friends and family
- Losing interest in hobbies
- Loss of appetite
- Performing poorly at work or school
- Dramatic and frequent mood changes
- Acting recklessly; showing violent, self-destructive behavior
- Expressing feelings of guilt, shame or failure
- Desperation; feeling like there’s no way out or no solution to a problem
- Giving away prized possessions
- Making out a will or otherwise getting his or her affairs in order
- Trying to secure weapons, pills or other things that can be used for harm

If you recognize many of these signs in friends, family or coworkers and are compelled to act, follow the ACE rule:

A- Ask your wingman. Have the courage to ask, but stay calm and ask the question directly. Are you thinking of killing yourself?

C- Care for your wingman. Calmly control the situation. Do not use force. Be safe.

E- Escort your wingman. Never leave them alone. Escort them to their chain of command, Chaplain or behavioral health professional.

Recognizing the signs of suicide may be difficult to distinguish from an individual’s usual mannerisms. If you are contemplating suicide, seek help immediately.

For those seeking help for themselves or a wingman, contact any or all of the following numbers or agencies.
911 for Emergencies
Andersen AFB Command Post: 366-2910
Andersen AFB Mental Health: 366-5125
Andersen AFB Chaplain Corps: 366- 6139
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800) 273-8255 (TALK)

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