Back to Top Skip to main content

Suicide Prevention Month: Changing the narrative

Suicide Prevention Month graphic Suicide Prevention Month graphic

Recommended Content:

Suicide Prevention

ALI AL SALEM AIR BASE, Kuwait — September is National Suicide Awareness and Prevention Month. Airmen are encouraged to change the narrative and combat the stigma associated with seeking help without fear of negative career implications.

With suicide being a major issue in today's military, mental health practitioners give honest feedback to encourage Airmen to share their stories, break the cycle of misinformation associated with the mental health and to motivate Airmen who need help to seek it early.

“Time can save lives,” said Air Force Capt. Stephanie Golden, 386th Expeditionary Medical Group psychologist. “Letting us help early on can change a finite decision such as ending your life, hurting your relationship or having poor work performance. By helping you sooner, we can make sure you can stay mission capable and we can save a life in the process.”

Mental health professionals spoke about proactive measures that address the issue before it becomes a reactive problem.

“No one gets to hear our good stories,” Golden said. “I have patients in my caseloads with top-secret clearances and no one knows… you don’t know if the person next to you working is seeking mental health because we get to keep that information private.”

To break the stigma, mental health technicians tackle the negative bias associated with the program head-on.

“Note that we do have to break confidentially sometimes, but that’s only for high-risk cases and those are relatively rare,” Golden said. “Yes, we can’t promise that won’t happen, but unfortunately those rare cases are the ones that people see. They see when we have to recommend not arming someone, they see when we have to limit someone’s duties, but they do not see the bulk of our patient load, the ones those are not high-risk because those we can keep confidential.”

Mental help technicians suggest that one major way to change the cycle is to use success stories to positively influence and motive those seeking help to come forward.

“A big way to change the narrative is for people that have those success stories to feel comfortable in sharing those,” said Air Force Staff Sgt. Rebecca Proulx, 386th EMDG mental health technician. “Let others know that they sought help and it was not a career-ender. ‘Hey I did seek mental health care and I made it this far in my career…’ Obviously, we can’t force people to share, but I think if they did it would create an environment where others would feel comfortable to open up and talk about their struggles.”

While changing the narrative can positively influence others, Airmen are also encouraged to change how they interact with their wingmen.

“Building togetherness between co-workers creates and allows people to reach out more,” said Air Force Tech Sgt. Brandon Woods, 386th EMDG mental health technician. “Changing our culture starts in the unit level, some things we can do include broadening our social network, leaning on the people you are with, the friends that you know, your family, those that you feel comfortable with.

Mental health providers can offer a variety of tools to strengthen resiliency and those tools prove effective when used at the first sign of trouble.

“I think of the brain as a muscle,” said Air Force Capt. Eunice Kim, 386th EMDG mental health officer. “So if you look at fitness and wellness in the same capacity as mental fitness, you see that just like strengthening your muscles you can also learn to strengthen your brain. Coming to mental health it’s not just about depression and anxiety it can also be preemptive, you can come into learn about different shortcuts or tools that you can use to make yourself more resilient, more efficient, make yourself a better runner, a better shooter, a better husband or friend, it’s just self-improvement.”

Airmen are reminded of their importance to their peers and the mission.

“The stress and feeling of helplessness that drives an Airman to believe there is no hope and no help is a fallacy," said Air Force Col. Rod Simpson, 386th Air Expeditionary Wing commander. "Each of our teammates brings vital energy and expertise to the mission. Know that your peers, subordinates, and leadership care deeply about you. Together we will do everything to get you or that person you know help right now. Please don’t feel like a permanent solution is the only option. There is nothing magic about the Air Force being at 50 or 80 or 100 suicides in a given year. The tragedy is at the first and every one after. Allow us to prove we care – speak up, lend a hand, take a hand.”

Disclaimer: Re-published content may be edited for length and clarity. Read original post.

You also may be interested in...

Kristin Gwin, Walter Reed Social Worker Talks About Getting Help

Video
9/12/2018
Kristin Gwin, Walter Reed Social Worker Talks About Getting Help

Kristin Gwin, a Social Worker at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center understands that getting help can be an intimidating process. She offers advice on how to get started by letting a professional know you want help.

Recommended Content:

Mental Health Care | Suicide Prevention

Suicide Prevention Month 2018

Video
9/4/2018
Suicide Prevention Month 2018

September is Suicide Prevention Month. No one fights the battle alone. Make it your mission to #BeThere for each other.

Recommended Content:

Suicide Prevention

Be There: Help Save a Life

Video
9/14/2016
Be There: Help Save a Life

Whether you have a minute or an hour, a simple act of kindness can help someone feel less alone. The U.S. Departments of Veterans Affairs and Defense have created a video to show how small actions can have a huge impact on Veterans and Service members who might be going through a difficult time.

Recommended Content:

Suicide Prevention

Joe Nose Stress

Video
9/23/2015
Joe Nose Stress

"Currently, Cmdr. Joe is the only stress-sniffing dog in the Department of Defense, but studies conducted by the University of Denver in Colorado have found that regardless of the type of skill they possess, the presence of therapy dogs reduce overall narcotic and painkiller usage among veterans."

Recommended Content:

Suicide Prevention

Suicide Prevention 2015

Video
9/17/2015
Suicide Prevention 2015

The Department of Defense takes suicide very seriously. Each Service is actively working to reduce the number of suicides. Watch this video to find out how you can help.

Recommended Content:

Suicide Prevention | Mental Wellness
<< < 1 > >> 
Showing results 1 - 5 Page 1 of 1

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing; Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.