Prevention: One act can save a life

  • Published
  • By Capt. Lisa M. Valentine
  • 5th Medical Group
Life is full of challenges, and when it seems overwhelming many people rely on inner strength and the support of others to get through the tough times and emerge stronger. However, some people may not feel strong enough to overcome their pain and suffering. As a result, they may think about harming themselves. The Air Force takes suicide prevention very seriously and considers any measure that saves a life as one worth taking. One act can save a life. The signs and symptoms expressed by a person contemplating suicide can be easily missed. Educating yourself about the warning signs and how to help someone can be the first steps in saving a life.

Common Warning Signs
A person considering suicide may communicate warning signs, either consciously or unconsciously, including:
· Feeling hopeless, helpless, trapped or like there is no way out
· Feelings of being an unbearable burden on family, friends or society
· Having increased anxiety, agitation, sleeplessness or mood swings
· Feeling like there is no reason to live
· Increased rage or anger
· Engaging in risky activities without thinking
· Increased alcohol or drug abuse
· Withdrawing from family and friends
· Feeling overwhelming guilt or shame
· Talking about death or dying, having a suicide plan
· Giving away possessions, saying "good-bye" to loved ones

Life circumstances
People facing a number of life circumstances may be at increased risk for feelings of hopelessness and overwhelming stress. These include:
· Suicides within the family/community
· Career setbacks or disciplinary actions, loss of a job
· Loss of or conflict within a close relationship
· Financial problems
· Readjustment difficulties following deployment

What You Can Do
If you notice any of the warning signs in a friend or family member it's important to speak up. Don't be afraid to be straightforward and ask, "Have you been thinking of killing yourself?" If you believe they are at high risk for suicide, take these precautions in addition to seeking emergency care:
· Stay with the person until help arrives--never leave a suicidal person alone.
· Remove any weapons, drugs or other means of self-injury from the area, if possible.
· If you're on the phone with someone, and you believe the individual is in immediate danger, try to keep him or her on the line while you or someone else calls emergency services.
· If the person is unwilling to accept help, contact command or law enforcement.

It is important to understand that seeking help is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of courage and strength. The U.S. Air Force is dedicated to the care and well-being of the physical, mental and spiritual health of Airmen, DoD civilians and their families. There are many programs and services to help cope with everyday stresses and those unique to military life. Some of these organizations include the Mental Health clinic, chaplain services, Military Family Life Consultants and Military One Source. When Airmen seek help for their wingmen and themselves, it is a sign of resiliency and strength.

1 Act, 1 question, 1 call, can save a life. If you or someone you know is thinking of harming yourself or him/herself, call the Minot Mental Health Clinic at 723-5527 or the Military Crisis Line at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The worst thing you can do is nothing at all. If you suspect someone may be feeling suicidal, talk to them--it could help save their life.