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Preventing suicide - starting with myself

Suicide Prevention Graphic

Know the signs of someone struggling with suicidal ideation and make sure to be there. Your actions could save a life. U.S. Air Force graphic by Glenn S. Robertson.

Suicide Prevention Graphic

If you're struggling with suicidal thoughts, remember that you are not alone. Help is out there, and there are people who will bring you back from the brink. Call a chaplain or the military / veteran crisis line. Call someone. U.S. Air Force graphic by Glenn S. Robertson.

F. E. WARREN AIR FORCE BASE, Wyo. --

    There is rarely a day that passes when I do not think of ending my own life.

     Some days, my depression is an overwhelming weight to bear and it takes nearly everything I have just to push the thoughts away and get on with my routine.

      Other days, and even on good ones, the thought creeps up out of nowhere – an insidious sense of doubt. Of worthlessness and a sense of purposelessness that whispers in my ear and tells me that I will never accomplish the goals I have set for myself. The thoughts that make me ask why I shouldn’t just call it quits and end the sadness that plagues me.

       I am just one of nearly a quarter of the population who has suffered with this illness for most of my life. Just like all of them, depression is present nearly every day of every year. If this sounds familiar to you, you are not alone. There are millions in this country who know the daily struggle of depression.           

      But I do not and I will not allow this disease to define me – and I ask anyone reading this who might be going through hard times to do the same. Maybe your situation is different. Maybe Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder haunts you and the things you’ve seen and experienced make you never want to open your eyes again. Maybe the stress of your job or your life seems to be too much to bear and you can’t see any end in sight. Overwhelming anxiety. Brain injury. The effects of substance abuse. So many different mental troubles can lead to suicidal ideation, which can complicate finding a solution for an individual thinking about hurting themselves.

      Whatever personal challenge you’re fighting with, please do everything you can to remind yourself that life is worth living. It’s a challenge and often even a struggle, absolutely. But, no matter what you’re struggling through, there are people who care about you with the resources available to help guide you through the darkness.         

     Whether it’s an anonymous phone call to a hotline, a visit a chaplain or a whole host of options in between, there are people – real people – out there who want to bring you back from the brink and help you realize that life is too precious to turn your back on. I have lost three people I considered friends – including one as close to me as a brother – to suicide. I will never forget the day I received the message that he died. It has stuck with me for 11 years now, a dull ache of loss for a friend torn away too soon. I ask myself if there was more I could have done to keep him from this end. He, and each of the others, left holes in those left behind when they died, and they are missed terribly by many people every day, even 11 years later.           

     For those of you who have made it this far and cannot relate to anything written above, I have a request for you as well. Go to https://www.af.mil/Suicide-Prevention/ and read about some of the programs and other resources available. If you see someone who’s clearly not themselves, struggling with some unseen torture, ask them how they’re doing. Ask them to get coffee or grab lunch. Sometimes all it takes to support someone in this situation is just being there. Or you can go a few steps further and learn the signs. Sign up for A.S.I.S.T. training through the chaplain’s office or take a similar program that will help you notice warning signs before they become tragedies.         

     I’ll bring this to a close with this. Suicide is an epidemic among military members and veterans, with those individuals at higher risk and taking their lives in higher numbers than the national average. If someone you know is showing signs of self-harm or you feel their life may be in danger, get help and don’t leave that individual alone. Contact the chaplain’s office (773-3434), a first sergeant or the command post (773-3921) for help.     

     September is officially Suicide Prevention Month, but there is no timeline on reaching out to someone in need and you can learn how to be more aware of the subtle signs shown by those at risk twelve months a year. You may be the one to save a life.