September is Suicide Awareness Month, and it’s an opportunity to increase public awareness about the warning signs of suicide risk, to provide information about the resources available to aid someone in crisis, and to show how individuals, organizations, and communities can work together to save lives. Experts estimate that more than 800,000 people die globally from suicide each year with one death occurring by suicide every 40 seconds. And, more than 30 others attempt suicide for every person who dies by suicide.
What are risk factors? Risk factors are characteristics or behaviors that increase the risk of suicide. History of substance abuse, increased irritability, impulsive behavior, isolation, feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, loss, and significant stressors are all risk factors. Isolation can be a feeling of not wanting to go out, or socialize with others, but it can also be a feeling of alienation by those around you. Loss can come in many forms. Most of us think of the loss of friends, family, or loved ones. It can also take the form of a loss of income, significant relationship, or job position.
Stress is all around us, and comes in so many forms it is hard to keep track of. However, not all stress is bad. When our normal every day stressors never find any relief or outlet, that is when it turns into bad stress, or distress. This can take the form of work stress, financial stress, relationship/social stress, legal stress, administrative actions, and medical issues such as chronic pain or illness. Some examples of these can be loss of a significant relationship, pending incarceration, holidays, new illness, humiliation, sense of failure, adjusting to a new job position/operations tempo, and change in location or environment. The presence of even one of these can cause significant distress. There is no one size fits all for stress because stress is based on each of our own individual perception. This is important to understand because what one person may find as a walk in the park may be the hardest situation to deal with for another person.
We can all play a role in preventing suicide, and it doesn’t require a grand gesture or complicated task. Helping someone feel included and supported can make a big difference during a challenging time. The “Be There” campaign emphasizes that small actions, like calling up an old friend, checking in on a neighbor, or inviting a colleague on a walk, are thoughtful ways to show someone you care. Your actions can help someone going through a tough time to feel less alone. If you notice someone who may struggling, simply taking the time to ask them if they are ok can sometimes make all the difference. “Be There” is being a good Wingman! (www.veteranscrisisline.net)
Army/Air Force - ACE: ASK, CARE, ESCORT!
Navy - ACT: ASK, CARE, TRANSPORT
JBAB Mental Health Clinic: 202-767-0611
Behavioral Health Optimization Program: 202-404-7992
Military Family Life Consultant (located at the Military Family Support Center): 202-767-0450
Base Chaplain: 202-767-5900, after hours: 202-439-4343
Military One Source: 800-342-9647
Military Crisis Line: 800-273-8255
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)