JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. -- September is National Suicide Prevention Month. It’s an opportunity to increase public awareness about the warning signs of suicide and provide information about the resources available to aid someone in crisis. Furthermore, this month will show how individuals, organizations, and communities can work together to save lives.
Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death within the United States and number one in the military. According to the Defense Suicide Prevention Office, the military had 267 Active Duty, 89 Reserve, and 124 Guard suicides last year alone.
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. However, it can also appear in the form of loss in income, a significant relationship, or a duty position.
One of the leading factors of suicide is stress. Stress is all around us and comes in so many forms it is hard to keep track of! However, not all stress is bad. If the stress you are experiencing drives you to become better, motivates you to be successful, and/or leads to positive outcomes then that would be considered positive stress.
When normal everyday 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. The presence of even one of these can cause significant distress. There is no “one size fits all” for stress, because it is based on individual perceptions. 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 feel less alone. If you notice someone who may be 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!
JBAB Mental Health Clinic: 202-767-0611
Behavorial 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)