Preventing Suicide Requires Wingman Awareness

  • Published
  • By Chaplain (Major) Wendell Rome
  • 132 FW Chaplain
The WINGMAN concept is foundational to the way we do business as an Air Force. With emphasis on the Wingman and "having each other's back," please read and retain the following information about one of the most significant roles we all play in each other's lives.

Risk Factors for Suicide and Symptoms of Risk

Risk factors are those things that increase the probability that difficulties may result in serious behavioral or physical health problems. Many risk factors can be modified, reduced, or eliminated. Wing, squadron, flight, unit, and section leaders must create an environment where seeking help is encouraged. The presence of any of the items on this list does not cause suicide; rather, as they accumulate and persist, the risk for suicide increases.

Symptoms of Risk:
· Suicide gestures
· Giving away personal items
· Talking about suicide or death
· Saying final farewells
· Chronic pessimism
· Increased alcohol/drug use
· Crying easily and more often
· Eating much more or much less
· Increased irritability
· Loss of sense of humor
· Social withdrawal
· Continual sadness
· Feelings of hopelessness/helplessness
· Change in sleeping habits

Risk Factors:
· Alcohol and drug abuse
· Legal Problems
· Poor job performance
· Relationship difficulties
· Financial problems
· Coping problems
· Disciplinary actions
· Under investigation

What To Do If You Suspect Trouble:
· Ask, "Are you thinking about suicide?"
· Intervene immediately.
· Don't keep it a secret.
· Locate help.
· Inform individual's family and/or support network.
· Find someone to stay with the person.
· Expedite--get help immediately.

What to Avoid When You Suspect Trouble:
· DO NOT ignore symptoms of risk (warning signs).
· DO NOT warn against seeking help.
· DO NOT assume troubles are not important.
· DO NOT give advice or false reassurance.
· DO NOT assume they won't hurt themselves.
· DO NOT suggest using alcohol or drugs.
· DO NOT challenge them to "get over it" or "just do it."

Note the following key areas to pay attention to in your own life as a means of balancing life's stress, and reaching your maximum potential:
· Effective coping and problem-solving skills
· Social and family support
· Optimistic outlook
· Sense of "belonging" to a group or organization
· Marriage
· Physical activity
· Easily accessible helping resources
· Participation and membership in a community
· Belief that it's OK to ask for help
· Sense of effectiveness and personal control
· Balanced diet
· Trust in a higher power
· Adequate sleep/rest

· People are the Air National Guard's greatest asset
· The ANG encourages personnel to seek help when needed
· Seeking help is a sign of strength and insight, NOT weakness
· Seeking help does NOT necessarily end a career; however,
not seeking help can.