New suicide prevention manager now in place

  • Published
  • By Capt. Gerald Novack
  • 96th Medical Group
What can I write that will be new, interesting and inspiring?  What can I write that hasn't been read (or heard) a million times already?  I have been asked to introduce myself as the new Suicide Prevention Program Manager here, and to comment on our prevention efforts. 

I am Capt. Jerry Novack.  I am a psychologist in the mental health clinic and the new Suicide Prevention Program Manager.

Some good news   - Instances of suicide here are rare.  Of course, we like to think of suicide as a "never" event, but in a population of 13,500 people, there will be an occasional suicide.  In the last decade, Eglin AFB has had no more than four suicides in a given year (2013). 

While even one suicide is too many, that's still just a 0.03 percent suicide rate.  I do not know what accounts for this success.  Perhaps living in a beautiful environment with a lively athletic and social culture is a protective factor.  Maybe people working here feel supported and valued by their commands. 

Maybe wingman intervention has prevented potential suicides in the recent past.  Whatever the explanation, my goal is to support what works well and build on our existing strengths without making drastic or unnecessary changes to the suicide prevention program here.

Wingman intervention -  The Air Force approach to suicide prevention focuses on wingman intervention.  We stress the importance of wingmen because research consistently demonstrates bystander intervention is most effective for suicide prevention.  What's seldom heard is this:  sometimes there is just nothing you can do.  It is the truth. 

Sometimes a wingman can recognize a friend or colleague having a difficult time, talk to that person with genuine care and concern, escort that person to the chaplain or mental health clinic, and that person still chooses to take her/his life.  Wingman intervention works, but as far as we know, nothing works every time.  To that end, I want to everyone to look out for each other and to get involved when there's a reason to worry about someone.  However, I do not want anyone to hold themselves personally accountable for the outcome in these situations.

Research on bystander interventions for cardiac arrest revealed that people trained in CPR often failed to intervene when someone was having a heart attack.  The number one reason people chose not to get involved: fear of failure.  If someone shows concern for a friend or colleague by asking if she/he is alright and escorting that person to a chaplain, first sergeant, emergency room, etc., they have succeeded - regardless of what happens after that. 

There is no failure if they show concern for those around them.  Please, know your people, stick your nose in their business when you are concerned about them, do not fear the outcome, and let's keep the suicide rates here miniscule. 

If I can ever be of assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me at 850-883-8374.