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Suicide Prevention Month: resiliency, connection can save lives

  • Published
  • 419th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah -- September is Suicide Prevention Month and mental health experts want Airmen to know how to take care of themselves and each other by paying attention to two key prevention strategies: resiliency and connection.

“Resiliency in the form of mental, physical, social, and spiritual health helps us hold up to stress and recover during difficulties,” said LeeAnn Gossett, director of psychological health for the 419th Fighter Wing. “We all need to be asking ourselves, ‘What do I need to be doing to protect myself when difficult times come, how do I respond to worrisome thoughts that may be present now, and who makes up my support system?’”

Connection with others is necessary during hard times, as tightknit relationships create a sense of well-being and belonging that can help protect against suicide.

“If suddenly someone comes in and they're looking exhausted, or they exhibit signs of depression or mood swings, then ask,” said Dr. Jeffrey Greenberg with the Air Force Suicide Prevention Program in a recent Air Force article. “It may be nothing, and that’s fine, but it is still important to demonstrate to someone that you are concerned about what’s going on with them. We want to increase that, the connection between Airmen."

“Emotional stresses are part of the reality of life,” Greenberg added. “When bad things happen, it causes a strong emotional response – anger, fear, anxiety, sadness, or anything. That’s normal. We need to help our Airmen develop the tools to manage those feelings.”

With a significant jump in suicide rates over the past 20 years, suicide awareness and prevention is more important than ever.

According to the Center for Disease Control, suicide is the leading cause of death in the United States and in the Air Force. Since 1999, suicide has increased about 25 percent across the U.S. and is up 46 percent in Utah. Utah ranks fifth highest in the nation for deaths from suicide.

“Those who attempt or commit suicide are often experiencing several major stressors such as financial, relationship, work, and legal problems,” Gossett said. “Suicide can be impulsive with roughly half of people making the decision to kill themselves about 10 minutes before attempting, so it’s so important to be connected to one another and to have a resiliency strategy.”

For those who are currently struggling with suicidal thoughts or depression, Gossett has this message: “There is always hope and support. Please reach out because I think you may be surprised at the support system that we have in place here for you.”

Gossett is available weekdays and on monthly Unit Training Assembly weekends from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Members can reach her at (801) 657-1233.

On UTA weekends, Airmen can also reach out to the medical squadron at (801) 777-2622, which has personnel who can offer mental health referrals for providers off base. Additionally, the wing’s chaplains are available for appointments or walk-ins. Call (801) 775-2646. The chaplain’s office is in Building 120 on the north end of the first floor. The following 24-hour call lines are also available anytime:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 or text 741741
Military Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255, press 1 or text 838255