PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Florida --
Reserve Citizen Airmen, along with their leadership, took part of their drill weekend to connect and talk about suicide during a Resilience Tactical Pause Oct. 6th, 2019 at Patrick Air Force Base, Florida.
Following a commander's call, the Airmen assigned to the 920th Rescue Wing returned to their units to connect with one another and to the resources available to those who need them.
Airmen were encouraged to share their stories of resilience.
“As a younger Airmen I was going through a hard time when my great-grandmother and my dad were facing health issues,” said Tech. Sgt. Ernest Clayton III. “My attitude changed, but thanks to the closeness of my shop, it didn’t go unnoticed.”
Thanks to the support of his supervisor, Master Sgt. Theodore Rodriguez, Clayton was able to bounce back.
“Immediately I was provided with the support and resources I needed,” Clayton added.
Although his great-grandmother passed away, his father was able to recover. Today Clayton remembers the rough patch he went through and encourages Airmen of all ranks by reminding them everyone goes through hard times.
“To be a resilient person, it is important to take care of your physical, mental and spiritual wellness,” Clayton added. “It is equally important to take care of your wingman, especially if you notice their attitude changing.”
The Air Force is committed to fostering a culture that values and encourages help-seeking behavior and has launched a service-wide effort to change the culture around how the ranks view mental health.
The 920th Aeromedical Staging Squadron mental health staff plans to start relaxation recreational therapy for people who are interested in spending time outdoors.
“Outdoor activities, such as fishing, give people time to unwind and gives their mind a chance to recharge while enjoying the beauty of nature,” said Tech. Sgt. Dawn Terrell, 920th Aeromedical Staging Squadron mental health service specialist.
According to the 920th Rescue Wing commander, Col. Kurt Matthews, the Air Force is committed to building a strong community and will continue to build healthy, empowered and resilient Airmen.
“This past year we have faced many challenges to include some tragedies,” Matthews said. “We have learned to absorb these tragedies, honor them and grow from these experiences.”
The Air Force recommends the following tips to be a good wingman: Ask, Care, Escort
If you have identified an Airman that may be considering suicide, it’s important to Ask your Wingman directly about what’s going on. This will help you determine what needs to be done next. Ask about issues early rather than waiting for things to escalate to the point of crisis. Take all comments about suicide seriously. Be an active listener and let your Wingman tell you about their challenges. Although it can be awkward, it’s important to ask the tough questions about whether or not your Wingman is thinking about harming or killing himself. If the answer is yes, or if you even suspect that the answer is yes, don’t leave the person alone.
Care for your Wingman by calmly listening and expressing concern. Don’t be judgmental or promise secrecy. If your Wingman is having thoughts of suicide, you need to act. Remove anything he could use to hurt himself and immediately seek help.
The final step is to Escort your Wingman immediately to the nearest emergency room, Mental Health Clinic, chaplain, or primary care clinic, and contact the supervisor or chain of command. If a distressed Airman refuses help or you're not sure what to do, call your supervisor or 911 for help. Never leave an Airman who is having thoughts of suicide alone, even to go to the bathroom.
If you or someone you know is going through a hard time, please contact the Military Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255, then press 1, or access online chat by texting 838255