Schriever Air Force Base   Right Corner Banner
Join the Air Force

News > Feature - Wingmen help prevent suicide
 
Photos 
Suicide prevention
The military community offers a variety of resources to help individuals. Supervisors, first sergeants, commanders, Airman and Family Readiness Centers, Chaplains and Mental Health professionals are available and equipped to assist individuals in need. All mental health programs are geared toward suicide prevention and increasing resiliency. Unit-based resiliency training, stress and anger-management training, outpatient-counseling services, family advocacy and alcohol and drug abuse counseling are also offered. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration/Airman 1st Class Corey Hook)
Download HiRes
Wingmen help prevent suicide

Posted 12/12/2012   Updated 12/12/2012 Email story   Print story

    


by Staff Sgt. Julius Delos Reyes
50th Space Wing Public Affairs


12/12/2012 - SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo.  -- "Something in me snapped and I found myself on I-25 driving at 80 miles per hour looking for something to run into."

It was June 2006 when Petula Buschert, 50th Force Support Squadron, pondered that thought; she was driving to work at the U.S. Air Force Academy. Three months before, her husband passed away and she found herself with two teenagers to raise alone without her "best friend."

"My thought was that my children are better off with someone else and the pain of the loss would go away," Buschert said.

Reasons

People choose to consider suicide for a variety of reasons, but there are very common themes that can often be identified prior to an attempt.

"Some common warning signs are relationship problems, financial problems, legal problems, increased substance use or abuse, medical issues or grief and loss," said Tech. Sgt. Jason Norberg, 21st Medical Operations Squadron Mental Health Element NCO in charge.

The reasons could really be anything because each person is different

However, changes in mood or behavior are usually apparent to people who are closest to the individual. There are some typical signs to watch for when an individual is considering suicide.

"Is the person withdrawing?" Norberg said. "Are they showing up late? Has their attitude changed? Do they not seem to care? Are they sad or depressed? Do they not seem like themselves? Do they seem hopeless?"

Help

According to Norberg, the most important thing anyone can do if they notice changes in a fellow Airman or coworker is to get involved and ask direct questions such as, "Are you OK? Are you thinking about hurting yourself?"

"Helplessness and hopelessness are often directly linked to suicide," said Norberg. "Talking to someone who cares can be the pivotal event that leads someone to step back from contemplating suicide."

The military community offers a variety of resources to help individuals. Supervisors, first sergeants, commanders, Airman and Family Readiness Centers, Chaplains and Mental Health professionals are available and equipped to assist individuals in need. All mental health programs are geared toward suicide prevention and increasing resiliency. Unit-based resiliency training, stress and anger-management training, outpatient-counseling services, family advocacy and alcohol and drug abuse counseling are also offered.

"It is important for people to get help because there are people who care about them and would be hurt by their death," said Staff Sgt. Kimberly Swanagan-Jackson, 50th Space Wing Chapel operations NCO in charge. "Suicide is permanent; most difficulties in life are not."

Recently, the Air Force has been championing resiliency in helping combat suicide. Though it may sound like a buzzword, being resilient is a job requirement in today's military environments.

"All Airmen have a variety of challenges that require the ability to stay focused on the mission despite personal or professional setbacks," Norberg said.

But what does it take to be resilient? That question will be answered differently because individuals draw resiliency and strength from different sources. Sometimes an individual has to go through a period of adversity to learn what works best for them.

"Establishing some sense of balance in life is often helpful," Norberg said. "When we encounter a challenge in life, it is often consuming and takes much of our focus and energy. Having an active social life, healthy relationships, a workout routine, a satisfying spiritual life or some avenue we can rely on during periods of distress is the key."

One of the most important solutions the Air Force has come up to help prevent suicide is the wingman concept. Since basic training, the concept has been reiterated for each Airman to "look out for each other;" and the importance of this is more apparent in suicide prevention.

"Wingmen are the most powerful anti-suicide tool the Air Force has in its arsenal," Norberg said. "Suicides are not prevented in emergency rooms or in counseling centers. They are prevented by people who have the courage to step in when something does not seem right, to ask the difficult questions, and to not leave their side until they are safe."

As such, the Air Force has been implementing programs to help Airmen and civilians be better wingmen.

Being a good wingman is a dual responsibility, it is not a one-way street. Good wingmen are honest, approachable, direct and caring, Norberg said. A good wingman holds himself or herself and others accountable for their actions and challenges potential bad decisions.

This is important because suicide can drastically affect the lives of everyone who is directly or indirectly linked to that individual. The loss can have repercussions at every level.

Decision

If Buschert continued with her decision to run into something, individuals close to her would have been affected in different ways. Her group of people may not only have lost a valuable member, but a wingman, friend and family member. Those left behind may experience a sense of shock or disbelief, or maybe periods of self-blame, sadness, guilt or depression.

But she didn't continue on her path.

Buschert was near Castle Rock, Colo., before she pulled herself together and turned around to head straight to work. She communicated to her co-workers what was happening.

"I called Life Skills and explained to them how I was feeling and they fit me in right then," Buschert said. "I met with a psychologist and just talked about the loss and pain."

She and her psychologist talked about her sleeping habits and how her lack of physical well-being was affecting her psychological health.

"I soon found myself in a better frame of mind, but I went back to Life Skills to follow up to ensure I had not missed something else," Buschert said. "I still find myself having problems sleeping and the pain of the loss is not less just something I have learned to live with."

She was able to thank her psychologist for saving her life. Now, she tells her story to others who would listen and hopefully, save someone's life.

"Now, I try to be a good wingman every day," Buschert said.

(If feeling suicidal or needing more information about suicide prevention, the following are helpful resources: supervisor, first sergeant, Chaplain at 719-567-3705, mental health at 719-556-7804, Suicide Hotline at 800-273-TALK, Military One Source at 800-342-9647 or the military family life consultant at 719-651-3379)



tabComments
No comments yet.  
Add a comment

 Inside Schriever AFB

ima cornerSearch


Site Map      Contact Us     Questions     USA.gov     Security and Privacy notice     E-publishing  
Suicide Prevention    SAPR   IG   EEO   Accessibility/Section 508   No FEAR Act