HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah — In response to the growing number of suicides in the Air Force, bases have been holding a “resiliency tactical pause,” a one day stand down where Airmen can discuss suicide awareness and prevention, as well as talk about mental health issues and break down barriers for getting help when needed.
Mark Burton, Hill’s violence prevention integrator, said the tactical pause was a solid step in ensuring leaders are reinforcing the message of suicide awareness.
“The tactical pause gives leaders an opportunity to connect with their workers on a more personal level,” he said. “It provides a forum to have tough conversations and share personal stories.”
He said the Air Force has done a good job in focusing on suicide intervention in terms of emphasizing the wingman culture and reinforcing to Airmen that if you see someone struggling, you intervene to get them the help they need.
Burton said the down day was a good opportunity to emphasize prevention as equally important as intervention. He said connection is perhaps the number one aspect to prevention.
“We need to get back to connecting with people,” Burton said. “We need to get off our computers and put our phones down and make an effort to connect with people and build real relationships.”
Burton said among other things, connecting with people can often provide hope to those struggling with relationship issues, financial stressors and legal problems, the three biggest reasons behind suicide.
“When a person is in a dark place, they just need someone who will shine a light and help them out of that darkness,” he said.
Airman 1st Class Kyle Jenkins, who works logistics in the 75th Medical Support Squadron, was recently able to recognize some warning signs and take action to help prevent a potential suicide.
“I received a message from on online friend that raised some warning signs,” Jenkins said. “I’d like to think I did everything I could to help this person. It’s better knowing you did everything you could than waking up the next morning and learning of a tragedy and thinking ‘I could have done more.’”
There are many resources available for those needing help. To talk to someone on base, call Hill’s Mental Health Clinic at 801-777-7909 or the base chapel at 801-777-2106. For contact information for all of Hill’s helping agencies, visit https://www.hill.af.mil/Home/Integrated-Delivery-System/. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline phone number is 1-800-273-8255, and resources are also available online at www.militaryonesource.com.