Scott Air Force Base, Illinois --
The military is very much about coping with the high demands and high standards of professional conduct that are expected. Deploying around the world to austere and hostile locations can be stressful not to mention the long work hours needed to complete the mission. This puts pressure on our Airmen and their families. It's common for personnel to feel overwhelmed or stretched too thin. Despite these pressures, military life can also be rewarding with benefits such as pride in serving one's country, professional accomplishment, travel around the country and world, unit camaraderie (the military is like a family), intellectual and physical challenges, educational benefits and retirement.
Unit camaraderie is a very important piece of suicide prevention. Supervisors should connect with their Airmen so that they can identify behaviors that are different from the norm. First, you have to establish what the norm is. Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care. Members need to know each other and develop trust so that they can help each other in times of crisis. People remember the military fondly due to connecting during stressful times. Some of my best friends were made in the military, during annual training and deployments. The camaraderie you share really goes a long way. Connectedness is the key. Most people that have suicidal thoughts feel disconnected from others and withdrawn from society. Staying connected to your troops can save a life. Ask them how they are doing and how the family is. Show an interest in their lives and that you care about them. Also, be sure to role model healthy self-care and good work ethics. Your Airmen are watching you at all times. Encourage healthy lifestyle choices: healthy eating, exercise, recreation and rest. You can't help others if you're not healthy yourself.
An active duty Chief said, "When I was feeling suicidal it really touched me when my coworker cared enough to ask me what was wrong and offered to come to the counselor with me. My coworker saved my life." Some people need a nudge to ask for help, but they are always glad when they do. Let your troops know that seeking help shows strength, responsibility, maturity and good judgment. Those that seek help are courageous.
An Army Major reported, "We don't know the extent of the burdens that others are carrying, but it is important for people to know we can help. It is far worse to cause a tragedy for your family instead of seeking professional assistance. And there is a lot of help available." We all have a personal responsibility to take care of ourselves and seek help when needed. Don't wait until life is overwhelming that death seems to be the only answer. Your death will not solve any problems, it will just cause more. And life can get better.
In the end it won't be the job we had, the new house or the new car. It will be about the relationships with family and friends that we hold dear to us, and who contribute to our emotional well-being. So make those connections and check on your fellow Airmen; it could mean saving a life.
Linda Schuh, Director of Psychological Health is available for counseling, consultations and referrals. Contact her for an appointment today: office: 618-256-7585, cell: 618-365-0159, email: firstname.lastname@example.org