Early detection and attention saves lives

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Nicholas Larsen
  • 47th Flying Training Wing

Mental health plays a large role in how Airmen think, feel, and act. Nurturing physical and mental well-being is important to maintaining readiness in a world marked by unforeseen challenges and ceaseless change. During Suicide Awareness Month, it is important to recognize the toll that mental health can take on an Airman’s wellbeing.

 It is crucial to know that help is available, and people do not have to fight alone.

Experiencing depression or anxiety may interfere with social lives and overall physical health. Symptoms can vary in severity and length of time.

“Recognizing risk factors and warning signs is vital to suicide intervention,” said Ms. Lisa Roof, 47th Flying Training Wing prevention analyst. “If someone is displaying warning signs, it is essential that someone checks-in with them. Early warning signs indicate suicidal ideation with no specific plans or intent to engage in lethal self-directed violence and have no history of active suicidal behavior.”

According to Air Force Medical Services it's important to pay attention to signs that may be early indicators of possible mental health problems, such as:

  • Eating or sleeping too much or too little.
  • Pulling away from people and usual activities.
  • Having trouble concentrating.
  • Having low or no energy.
  • Feeling numb or like nothing matters.
  • Having unexplained aches and pains.
  • Feeling helpless or hopeless.
  • Excessive substance abuse.

“Early detection, coordination of care, and intervention for suicide is pivotal in saving someone’s life,” said Tech. Sgt. Erin Barriga, 47th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron mental health flight chief. “One way to detect early signs of suicide is to know your people well enough to recognize when there is a deviation from their normal behavior.”

If someone is displaying early signs of suicide or mental health issues, use A.C.E.: Ask, Care, Escort.

While Asking the initial question about suicide may be uncomfortable, it is an essential first step in caring for those who may be dealing with suicidal decisions.

Caring is the next step, stay with the person and let them know they have someone to rely on and someone is listening and not judging.

The final part of A.C.E. is Escort; stay with them until help arrives or until professionals can be brought to help. If necessary, remove lethal means of self-harm that might be nearby.

Watching out for the well-being of others strengthens the community by promoting trust, cooperation, and mutual support between peers. It is the foundation of the wingman concept. If someone is acting off or may have struggles in their life, make sure they are checked up on. Early detection and prevention allow for Airmen to take a proactive approach in the fight against suicide.  

If you or someone you care about needs immediate help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988, and then press 1 or send a text to 838255. Online chat is also available. The crisis line is free and available 24/7 to help and connect with the resources you need. Airmen can also reach out to Laughlin’s on-call Chaplain at (830) 309-6056 or Laughlin’s Mental Health at (830) 298-6422.

By ensuring Airmen have a place to turn to when times are rough and that Wingmen are looking out for fellow Airmen, Laughlin will continue to work towards suicide prevention and building resiliency.