Suicide prevention: The spiritual side

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Brandon Valle
  • 90th Missile Wing Public Affairs
Editors note: This is the third article in a series of stories focusing on suicide prevention.

The U.S. Air Force uses a program called Comprehensive Airman Fitness, and the concepts of the pillars of resiliency, to encourage Airmen to keep balance in their lives. There are four pillars: social and family, physical, mental and emotional, and spiritual.

When talking about suicide or working toward its prevention, one must understand how suicidal thoughts affect each of the four pillars. The spiritual pillar focuses on two key points: having a sense of faith and having a sense of purpose.

For some, having faith means being religious, but this is not always the case.

"We all have a sense of faith; it's what drives our actions every day," said Chaplain (Capt.) Robert Tilley, 90th Missile Wing Chaplain Office chaplain. "If not religion, it is a set of core beliefs that motivates us and gives us a sense of purpose. It's what drives every decision we make in our lives."

Faith is the central point that keeps us motivated. Suicidal thoughts result from a breakdown of a sense of faith. When faith fails, people begin to lose hope, Tilley said.

"Hope is intertwined with faith," Tilley said. "When all hope looks bleak or seems lost, ultimately, it's that calling for something better that keeps you up. That feeling or motivation is what pulls you out of the darkness and into the light."

For many, hope is focused on the future. Losing sight of what's ahead can open the door to suicidal thoughts.

"Suicidal thoughts are focused on the here and now, not on the future," said Chaplain (Maj.) Wade Jensen, 90th Missile Wing Chaplain Office chaplain. "Loss of hope leads to loss in a confident expectation into what is coming. Being able to look ahead and keep moving forward is key in being able to bounce back from hardship."

Everyone has something in their life that is their reason for waking up in the morning. This driving force is what gives life a meaning.

"The most important piece of the pillar is that life has a meaning," Tilley said. "Without a purpose or belief system, you can feel directionless. It is easier to fall victim to hopelessness or to struggle without a goal or direction in your life. We need an anchor in our lives, something that keeps us moving forward."

During trials and challenges, people sometimes begin to lose themselves in the struggle.

"When people don't see that they have a purpose," Jensen said, "they tend to lean to suicidal thoughts. Without a purpose, people begin to think there is no reason to stay. When we get caught up in our lives, we fail in one main aspect in our life: making time for our self. We need to find time to recharge our soul after facing challenges."

When faced with difficulties, some people turn against themselves.

"People tend to ask 'why me' or 'why now' when confronting challenges," Jensen said. "Instead, people should be asking 'what does this mean, what must I do in this' or 'what must I become through this challenge.'"

The spiritual pillar is about practical applications. The whole purpose is having a balance built into your life.

The chaplains office can be reached at 773-3434. There are other sources available to help those with suicidal thoughts.
· The Mental Health Clinic provides individual counselling or educational classes and can be reached at 773-2998.
· The military and family life consultants at the Airmen and Family Readiness Center can  provide confidential service and can be contacted at 307-275-2460 for adults or 307-275-2572 children.
· provides access to self-help resources and can assist in locating other therapy services.
· The Suicide Crisis Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 is available 24-hours a day with military specific providers who are knowledgeable with the resources available.