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Suicide Prevention: Columbus AFB helps bring awareness, provides resources

(U.S. Air Force Courtesy Photo)

(U.S. Air Force Courtesy Photo)

(U.S. Air Force Courtesy Photo)

(U.S. Air Force Courtesy Photo)

COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month which helps promote fellow Airmen to reach out to those affected by suicide, raise awareness and connect with individuals struggling with resiliency.

Transitioning past the Tactical Pause resiliency day at Columbus Air force Base, Mississippi, Airmen here have been continuing to spread awareness about suicide prevention and mental health. These efforts will hopefully help increase resiliency and improve effectiveness and wingmanship in the work environment.

Daisy Jones-Brown, Columbus AFB’s violence prevention integrator and suicide prevention program manager, is the overarching preventative worker that ensures military members know about their available resources and helping agencies. She can refer people to the care they need such as mental health, Military OneSource, Behavioral Health Optimization Program (BHOP), or Military & Family Life Counseling (MFLC).

“People are aware that we have a problem, so some of the things we do at the VPI is get challenged to look into the prevention piece of suicide and come up with ways to combat it,” Jones-Brown said.

Jones-Brown said she divides suicide prevention into two categories: risk factors that make people more susceptible to suicide and protective factors. By doing this, she can increase the methods of prevention for military members on the base by taking a more personal approach to the subject.

Risks for suicide include people with substance abuse problems, those experiencing loss or guilt, feelings of isolation, and those undergoing stress, both professionally or in their personal life. This is why it is important for leadership at every level to know the Airmen they supervise, and connect to them enough to know if they have experienced an event in their life that might increase their risk for suicide.

Staff Sgt. Kyle Beath, 14th Force Support Squadron NCO in charge of customer service, mentioned one of the key ways of raising the awareness of suicide is to talk about it more and to have people who have actually been through it talk about it to others.

Beath was a speaker at the recent “Storytellers” on Columbus AFB. There, he shared his experiences with suicide and is an active advocator for suicide prevention.

“Talking to one another individually does have a big impact when creating connections but sharing stories to a group of people reaches further to those who could potentially be going through something,” Beath said. “If someone going through a hard time sees there are actually people there for them, then I believe they will be more willing to show signs or talk of a deeper problem.”

In the work environment it is crucial to have a positive atmosphere. Having resources and people you can reach out to can be essential when being in a stressful environment.

Mental health is one of those resources, available to help provide information risk. They provide information related to some of the risk factors that are associated with suicide.

Capt. Joshua Barry, 14th Operations Medical Readiness Squadron Mental Health flight commander, said building relationships in a foundation of trust and preparing for the future can provide more resilient tactics on how to prevent suicide among Airmen.

“When patients leave my office and go back to their lives with the tools I provided them to get through their issues, they will still need a support network to help further along their progress to good mental health,” Barry said. “The purpose and need of networking is to talk about the issues and break the stigma to make the subject easier to talk about.”

Airmen are encouraged to placing themselves into groups, volunteering or joining social clubs so that they may create peer-to-peer relationships and struggling individuals can have the feeling of connecting through the community.

Barry said connecting with each other as a community fosters a resilient workplace and community. Everyone has a role to play in prevention. The most basic, and often most effective, way to prevent suicide is to make sure that our family members, friends, coworkers and anyone else in our life feel connected and a have sense of belonging.