AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy — As the U.S. Air Force gets smaller and areas of responsibilities grow, Airmen are encouraged to take care of themselves to successfully complete the mission.“Our job is to fight and win the nation’s wars. We’ll never be good enough at it; we’ve got to get better every day. It’s not an easy task, which is why Comprehensive Airman Fitness is so important,” said U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III. “Our focus is on the well-being and care for ourselves, each other and our families so we can be more resilient to the many challenges military service brings.”
“Mental,” one of the pillars of CAF, plays an important role in suicide prevention, the second leading preventable cause of death for all service members. It remains a major concern since 59 active-duty members and 36 Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve and civilians committed suicide in 2014. So far in 2015, there have been 58 total force suicides, according to the Air Force Suicide Prevention Program manager.
“The Air Force counts on people to be [well-balanced], that’s why we have so many resources to help people improve their lives,” said Capt. Derandoria Young, 31st Fighter Wing suicide prevention program manager. “I think the Air Force requires a lot of us and so they invest a lot in us as well. You can’t help anyone else or be effective toward the mission or your family if you’re stressed out or tired.”
In addition to discussing suicide prevention during annual face-to-face and small group training, Airmen can use the Wingman Toolkit. The toolkit is designed to ensure Airmen have quick and easy access to the latest CAF resources. The toolkit is also available as a mobile application. It includes videos, stories and testimonies to help users improve mental, physical, social and spiritual fitness. Airmen can also track physical training workouts, set up spiritual reminders and track their sleep patterns.
Although resources are available, Airmen should remain alert for risk factors and warning signs, to render assistance when needed.
Some risk factors include:
– Existing mental health conditions such as depression or bipolar disorder
– Alcohol, drug or substance abuse
– Serious or chronic health conditions or pain
– Exposure to someone else’s suicide, or to graphic or sensationalized accounts of suicide
– Access to lethal means to commit suicide, including firearms and drugs
– Prolonged stress factors which may include harassment, bullying, relationship problems or unemployment
Some warning signs include:
– Expressing feelings of hopelessness or helplessness
– Acting recklessly
– Changes in appetite, sleep habits, mood or energy levels
– Looking for ways to kill themselves, such as searching online for materials or means
– Withdrawing from activities
– Isolating from family and friends
– Visiting or calling people to say goodbye
– Giving away prized possessions
Airmen are encouraged to use the acronym ACE if they witness the above changes in their wingman.
“We have the acronym ACE–ask, care and escort. I would say the biggest part is care. If you care you’re going to ask. If you care you’re going to escort or make sure they get the help needed,” Young explained. “Taking the time to care is really hard sometimes because we’re all so busy and everybody’s got a million and one things to do, but to ask you have to know a person; you have to care to intervene.”
Service members are also reminded to put the fear of hurting their careers aside and seek the help they need.
“For the most part, I think people are really good about coming in when things start to get out-of-hand. Most people come here and their supervisor never knows unless they tell them,” said Young. “The earlier they seek help the better. When your stress levels are at a moderate level, then things tend to be more manageable.”
For assistance, call the Aviano Mental Health Clinic at 632-5321 or the Chapel office at 632-5211.
For additional information and support, the following agencies can also be contacted:
– Military and Family Life Consultants at 632-5029
– Airman and Family Readiness Center at 632-5407
– Family Advocacy at 632-5667
– Alcohol And Drug Abuse Prevention And Treatment at 632-5321
– Military One Source at (800) 342-9647
– Confidential chat at VeteransCrisisLine.net or (800) 273-8255
Source: Reaching out, saving lives