MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. --
No one wants to tragically lose a loved one or wingman to suicide.
To be proactive in ensuring this doesn’t happen, Team Moody’s 23rd Medical Operations Squadron’s mental health clinic is encouraging Airmen to participate in the Air Force’s “Be There” initiative.
Committed to helping reach the Air Force’s goal of zero suicides, Moody is utilizing Suicide Prevention Month to promote a culture where acknowledging and seeking help to ensure healthy mental wellness is embraced by all Airmen.
“Suicide isn’t an easy situation and topic to discuss,” said Capt. Bryan Presler, 23rd MDOS Suicide Prevention program manager. “It can be uncomfortable to confront someone who shows [suicidal] risk factors, especially if you have a relationship with them and fear it may negatively impact the relationship.
“Another concern may be, ‘How do I respond when someone does endorse suicidal thoughts?’” Presler added. “It is essential to focus on active listening, rather than saying the ‘right thing.’ The key is to be present with the person.”
While addressing suicidal ideations may be uncomfortable, the mental health clinic teaches the “Ask, Care, Escort,” method, a guideline which can help individuals who show risk factors such as decreased work performance, converse about death and dying, and misuse drugs or alcohol.
“Directly asking may be the toughest but most effective way to address suicide risk,” Presler said. “If someone admits to having suicidal thoughts or plans, you care for them by remaining calm and staying with them while escorting them to their first sergeant, chaplain or the mental health clinic for further help.”
According to Presler, many victims don’t reach out for a helping hand due to several misconceptions. Among these are the fears that accepting help can negatively affect Airmen’s career statuses, reduce their unit’s trust in their abilities, and feel guilt for not overcoming their mental health concerns.
The mental health clinic stresses this stigma can be reduced by promoting a culture where seeking and receiving help is encouraged. Additionally, they express that connectivity is especially important for military members in stressful and high operational tempo jobs.
“It is essential we take notice when our wingmen [are] showing risk factors, and encourage them to seek help,” Presler said. “Approximately 98 percent of patients who seek help for mental health factors have faced no negative impact on their career across the Air Force. A key component of suicide prevention awareness is emphasized through the Air Force’s ‘Green Dot’ training and Moody’s upcoming violence prevention event, which partly focuses on self-harm. During these events, we offer resources and websites for people to refer to.”
According to Staff Sgt. Christopher Thompson, 23rd MDOS NCO in charge of mental health, these trainings help ensure a comfortable environment to discuss suicide amongst senior leadership and junior Airmen.
“It’s necessary to revisit the topic of suicide because it’s easy to ignore our own self-awareness sometimes due to our work, home and family environments,” Thompson said. “We tend to give our all to the mission and our loved ones, but taking a moment to care about our own and others wellness helps us maintain the four domains to be comprehensive, fit Airmen.
“It’s everyone’s responsibility to be there for each other to maintain our physical, spiritual, social and mental wellness.”