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News > Suicide prevention: A team effort
Suicide prevention: A team effort

Posted 1/27/2010   Updated 1/27/2010 Email story   Print story


by Senior Airman Alyssa C. Miles
2d Bomb Wing Public Affairs

1/27/2010 - BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. -- According to the National Mental Information Center Web site, every day 14 people between the ages of 15 and 24 commit suicide -- approximately one every 100 minutes.

"In the first 19 days of this year our command lost two Airmen to suicide, four Airmen attempted suicide or had suicidal ideations and three Airmen died as a result of preventable accidents," said Gen. William Fraser, Air Combat Command commander. "We must take action now to curb this alarming trend. It will take all of us, working together, to be successful in this effort."

Capt. Sabera Sobhan, 2d Medical Operations Squadron psychological provider, says those who are contemplating suicide may experience ideation, substance abuse, anxiety, feeling trapped, hopelessness, withdrawal, anger, recklessness and may have extreme mood swings.

"Ideation means having a suicide plan, writing or talking about death, dying or suicide," the captain said. "A major flag is when one begins to have a sense of hopelessness, or the person thinks that there is nothing that can change in their life."

If any of these signs are recognized, immediate action should be taken.

"Specifically, what you can do when you see warning signs in a fellow Airman is ask the person directly about suicide -- describe what you are seeing and be honest and direct," Captain Sobhan said. "Share your concerns in a nonjudgmental and compassionate manner -- use open-ended questions."

Unhelpful responses include: ignoring or not taking the problem seriously, using reverse psychology and trying to convince the individual that they are not suicidal. Additionally, encouraging the individual to drink alcohol proves to be another negative solution, as alcohol decreases good and increases impulsive decision making.

"I know that there are pressures facing each of you and your families," said General Fraser. "But there are also numerous support networks of friends, family and fellow Airmen to lean on through good times and bad."

Outlets for those thinking about committing suicide are family, friends, supervisors, chaplains, the Airman and Family Readiness Center, mental health, family advocacy and Military One Source. Those who are apprehensive about coming forward because of possible repercussions can be assured as "97 percent of Airmen who come in for treatment have nothing happen to their career," according to Captain Sobhan.

Mental health offers effective coping and problem-solving skills, while Military One Source can provide free off-base therapy referrals to those in need.

For more information on suicide prevention, visit

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