“Be There” to help prevent suicide

  • Published
  • By Capt. Alexis Fletes
  • 96th Medical Group Suicide Prevention Program manager
My name is Capt. Alexis Fletes, a psychologist at the 96th Medical Group, and the new Suicide Prevention Program manager.

September is Suicide Prevention Month.  We usually hear about suicide prevention from the required mandatory annual training we attend.  This is such an important topic and it affects each and every one of us.

My goal is to provide answers to the following questions:  Who is at risk for suicide?  What are some of the signs?  How can one get help?  And why is suicide prevention so important?

Here we have wingmen, co-workers, supervisors and dependents who struggle with many challenges on a daily basis.  These challenges can sometimes be difficult to identify, but can cost someone their life without the help they need.

Signs that someone may be at risk for suicide include: depression; post-traumatic stress disorder; increased irritability; financial problems; relationship issues; recent life changes such as a permanent change of station or a deployment; depressed mood; changes in sleep patterns or appetite; withdrawing from others; difficulty concentrating; memory problems and fatigue.

Many of us have experienced these symptoms during times of stress.  Normally we are able to move past them fairly quickly.  However, in some situations, these symptoms can overwhelm us.  It is important to be able to identify these signs not only in ourselves, but in our wingmen, friends, and family.

The Secretary of Defense recently named this year’s Suicide Prevention Awareness month theme, “Be There.”  The campaign aims to emphasize the interactions we have with others on a daily basis that have a significant impact on the well-being of ourselves and others.

“Be There” encourages us to view our interactions as meaningful regardless of how brief or intimate, when helping others who may be struggling.  The campaign challenges us all to reach out to others, even if it is just for a cup of coffee or eating lunch together.

We can all do our part.  Imagine if every person took this challenge.  Think of the number of individuals who currently struggle in silence, who would have a listening ear.  This small act can change the culture of this base, as well as our society's culture as a whole.

There are several resources available to help anyone experiencing thoughts of suicide, or guide anyone who suspects someone has suicidal thoughts.  Contact the 96th MDG Mental Health Clinic at 883-8373.  The office is located on the second floor of the hospital.  The Emergency Department is also an option where any medical provider can be notified.

The Chapel, a Military and Family Life or Employee Assistance Program counselor are also available.  If needed, tell a first sergeant, supervisor, or a fellow wingman who can go with you to one of the places mentioned.

Another option is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

I challenge my fellow Airmen and civilians to “Be There” for one another and not ignore signs of trouble.