WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- Being connected to others and strengthening one’s personal resilience are key to preventing suicides, said the suicide prevention program manager at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
Dr. Thomas Tirey Jr., who is also the base’s violence prevention integrator, pointed to a new campaign, “Connect to Protect. Make it Your Mission to #BeThere” which will be promoted through various means to the base community.
“This year’s campaign for September, the month we observe suicide prevention, highlights the important role connections to family, friends, coworkers, community and resources play in preventing suicide,” Tirey said. “Research indicates connectedness is a protective factor that can reduce the risk of suicide. It’s something we know we can do.”
While many factors can contribute to suicide, for a person experiencing depression, anxiety and impulsivity, “Connect to Protect” can be effective in combating loneliness, isolation and other feelings, he said.
This campaign aligns well with Air Force Materiel Command’s “AFMC Connect” program where supervisors and other leadership discuss a different topic monthly with their employees. The topics relate to being better connected with one another, he said, to ensure people’s voices are heard, lines of communication are open and ways to strengthen resiliency are emphasized.
“Morale is a huge factor in the quality of the service anyone gives,” Tirey said. “Suicide in an organization can sink morale. We still struggle to understand suicide, and when we have lost someone, people take on the burden of questioning what they could have done. But in reality, that person is just not trained and doesn’t have that skill set to deal with such a situation.”
Being a good wingman and connecting with others is a great way to fight suicide, he said.
“If the phone rings, if a person knocks on the door, if the suffering person’s thought process is interrupted, there is a great percentage that do not follow through,” Tirey said. “If we’re calling and Skyping and Zooming each other, you never know when you’ve interrupted a cycle and given a person some hope when they were hopeless.”
For people who are thinking about suicide, he encourages them to reach out to a trusted friend or coworker, pick up the phone or go online to a helping agency.
When a friend is concerned about someone’s well-being and demeanor, they can use the “ACE” tool introduced basewide in 2019 – “Ask. Care. Escort.”
“It all comes down to connection,” he said.
Active-duty military members are encouraged to seek help when needed and not be concerned that it will affect their career, Tirey noted.
“That’s an old paradigm. Now military members should treat their emotional needs just like they treat their physical needs. If you pulled a muscle, you go to the doctor, and if you have so much stress that you’re not sleeping, you go to the doctor,” he said. “It’s accepted and there’s no stigma anymore. You have a mind and a body and a soul to care for. You need to be healthy to serve at your maximum potential.”
While the month of September emphasizes suicide prevention, the effort is timeless and ongoing, Tirey said.
“We want to always make sure the base community knows about our helping agencies and to form strong bonds with others,” he said.
Links, tools and more information
- 88th Medical Group Mental Health: 937-257-6877
- ADAPT (Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment): 937-257-6877
- 88 ABW Chaplain: 937-257-7427
- Wright-Patterson Medical Center Chaplain: 937-257-8900
- Airman & Family Readiness Center: 937-257-3592
- Military Family Life Consultants: 937-257-3592
- Employee Assistance Program: 866-586-9078
- SARC (Sexual Assault Prevention & Response): 937-257-7272
- Military One Source: 1-800-342-9647
- United Way: 211 (will link to other resources: veterans)
- DoD Safe Helpline: 877-995-5247
- National Suicide Hotline: 800-273- TALK (8255)
For more information about suicide awareness and prevention, call the Military Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and press 1 or text 838255* visit http://www.afms.af.mil/suicideprevention/.
AFMC Connect Program: https://cs2.eis.af.mil/sites/22370/AFMCWingmanDay/SitePages/Community%20Home.aspx
Air Force Resilience web site: https://www.resilience.af.mil/