According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide is a leading cause of death in the United States. Suicide among service members, veterans, and their families is a public health and national security crisis. While suicide is generally the act of an individual, it occurs in the context of the individual’s relationships, community, larger society, and culture in which we live. Suicide is the culmination of multiple factors and complex interactions. Yet suicide is preventable. Every death by suicide is a tragedy and weighs heavily on the military community. Suicide prevention is the responsibility of the entire DAF community.
Air Force Vision
Decrease suicides and attempted suicides by increasing morale and comradery among Airmen, Guardians, and their families. Service members and civilians who feel a greater connection to each other, their leadership and mission are more protected against risk of self-harm in times of distress. Seeking help, including mental health services, is viewed as normal by Airmen and Guardians, and is supported and encouraged by leadership. Foundational education and resources can fulfill the vision by increasing protective factors for Airmen, Guardians, and their family members. This is a holistic approach to strengthen resilience, reinforce protective factors, and reduced unwanted behaviors through deliberate and meaningful personal and professional development. Focusing on our mission, building a shared purpose and strong connections will aid in assisting our most vital resource – our people.
Connectedness is a key protective factor that assists with combating the everyday risk factors people encounter throughout their lives. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that substantial evidence supports the view that connectedness between persons reduces risk of suicidal behavior. Being able to connect with trusted peers and knowing that they will listen (nonjudgmentally) and provide support is crucial for mental wellness. Greater social support and unit cohesion can have a positive impact on an individual’s sense of purpose and overall mental wellbeing. Successful suicide prevention efforts are linked to fostering connectedness – the vital relationships and interpersonal connections that individuals forge with family, friends, colleagues, and their community.
Connectedness means that people feel a sense of belonging. They feel seen and heard and know that others will be there for them. Active listening enables us to learn more about one another, recognize changes in behavior, and work as a team to build up and support one another. Daily connections can make a big impact when someone is feeling lonely – especially if they’re new to the unit or community. No special training is needed to show genuine concern. When we feel connected to others, we have people we can reach out to and recognize when they are in distress. Family members and other caregivers are very important to suicide prevention. They can help increase protective factors such as helping the person develop positive life skills and learn how to engage in healthy relationships. They can also provide support during a suicidal crisis and encourage the person to seek help. Importantly, family members can stay connected, be open to supportive conversations, and let each other know that they are there, always.
Connect to Protect!