Suicide awareness resources available for Airmen, wingmen

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey -- In the Air Force, those who commit suicide are usually male, but don't have to be; junior enlisted, but not in all cases; separated or divorced, but not always; and active-duty or reserve, but sometimes civilian. With such vague information, how can someone possibly determine a suicidal individual?

According to the 39th Air Base Wing mental health flight, indentifying someone who is suicidal is very difficult. There are some key warning signs, however, that may help identify them.

"As wingmen, people should always be on the lookout for big changes in someone's attitude; in their life," said Maj. Timothy Gameros, 39th ABW mental health flight commander. "It's important to catch the signs of a suicidal [individual] early."

Some signs of a person considering suicide include, but are not limited to depression, devastation over a life-effecting event, loss of interest in hobbies, giving away items of significance, increased alcohol use and poor personal hygiene and appearance.

"Suicidal people are in a somewhat downward spiral in one or many areas of their life and are no longer thinking clearly," Major Gameros said. "The longer people have those feelings, the more likely they are to attempt taking their life. Being suicidal can also mean that people get to the point when they don't care if they live or die and they get reckless."

Airmen at a higher risk of suicide include those with pending disciplinary actions; recently divorced, going through a divorce or the breakup of a significant relationship; lost a loved one or friend; or having financial problems. As wingmen, these are "indicators" that need to be montiored closely. Base suicide prevention guidance outlines how to intervene with someone contemplating suicide:

- Ask directly about thoughts of suicide
- Care for your wingman by calmly expressing concern
- Escort the individual immediately to the command, chaplain, mental health provider or the primary care clinic
- Be direct and honest
- Use open-ended questions
- Listen to what they have to say
- Express caring and hope

Preventing suicides is a two-part task. The first part is to recognize the signs. The second part is to self evaluate your feelings and life, and if you identify potential or occuring suicidal behavior, act appropriately to seek help, help that Major Gameros said there is an abundance of at Incirlik.

"Whether they are a family member, a friend or a professional, the first thing you need to do is to talk to somebody," Major Gameros said.

Resources available include:

- Chaplains: 676-6441
- Marriage and Family Life Consultants: 676-3926
- Mental Health Clinic: 676-6452
- Primary Care Providers: 676-6666

The Chapel conducts SafeTALK briefings aimed at raising suicide prevention and intervention awareness in the Airman and Family Readiness Center. The next briefing is scheduled for June 9.

"Although any loss of an Airman is a significant loss to the Air Force, suicides are especially difficult for the survivors," said Col. Eric Beene, 39th Air Base Wing commander. "They leave so many questions, and what is sometimes frustrating is that they can be prevented. As wingmen, supervisors, and leaders, we must be extra tuned-in to our fellow Airmen and their behaviors. Incirlik's suicide prevention resources are very useful, for both the troubled Airman and his or her wingman. Help is here. Please reach out and ask for help."

For more information on suicide prevention resources, visit the Air Force Suicide Prevention Program Web site at http://afspp.afms.mil/idc/groups/public/documents/webcontent/knowledgejunction.hcst?functionalarea=AFSuicidePreventionPrgm&doctype=subpage&docname=CTB_018094&incbanner=0.