Suicide Prevention Month: Know the Warning Signs

  • Published
  • By Capt. Rachel Wiley & Capt. Allison Valdovinos
  • 86th Medical Group suicide prevention program managers
Life is full of challenges and when it seems overwhelming, most people rely on their inner strengths and the support of others to get through and emerge stronger. However, some people are not able to overcome their pain and suffering, and they may think about harming themselves. Whether it is a service member or a family member the signs and symptoms expressed by a person contemplating suicide can be easily missed. Educating yourself about the warning signs of suicide and how to help someone can be the first steps to saving a fellow Airman's life.

Common Warning Signs of Suicide

There can be many warning signs that a person considering suicide may communicate, either consciously or unconsciously, including:
· Feeling hopeless, helpless, trapped, or like there is no way out.
· Feeling of being an unbearable burden on family, friends, or society.
· Having increased anxiety, agitation, sleeplessness, or mood swings.
· Feeling like there is no reason to live.
· Increased rage or anger.
· Engaging in risky activities without thinking.
· Increased alcohol or drug abuse.
· Withdrawing from family and friends.
· Feeling overwhelming guilt or shame.
· Talking about death or dying, having a suicide plan.
· Giving away possessions, saying "good-bye" to loved ones.

What You Can Do
If you notice any of the warning signs of suicide in a co-worker, friend or family member, it's important to speak up. Don't be afraid to ask bluntly, "Have you been thinking of killing yourself?" If you believe they are at high or imminent risk for suicide, take these precautions in addition to seeking emergency care:

· Stay with the person until help arrives. Never leave a suicidal person alone.
· Remove any weapons, drugs, or other means of self-injury from the area, if possible.
· If you're on the phone with someone, and you believe the individual is in immediate danger, try to
keep him or her on the line while you or someone else calls emergency services.
· If the person is unwilling to accept help, contact command or law enforcement.

It is important to understand that seeking help is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of courage and strength. The Air Force is dedicated to the care and well-being of the physical, mental and spiritual health of Airmen and their families. Organizations within the military are focused on helping Airmen. Some of these organizations include the mental health clinic, chaplain services, Military Family Life consultants, Airmen and Family Readiness Center and Military One Source. When Airmen seek help for their wingmen and themselves, it helps us eliminate suicide amongst our ranks. If you or someone you know is thinking of harming yourself or him or herself, call the Ramstein Mental Health Clinic at 479-2390 or 06371-46-2390 or the Military Crisis Line at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The worst thing you can do is nothing at all. Don't let it take a personal tragedy to change your perspective on how to identify possible victims of suicide.