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Commentary: Suicide prevention in the time of COVID-19

Col. Bruce P. Heseltine, Jr.

Col. Bruce P. Heseltine, Jr.

MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. --

As you arrive at your workstations this weekend, I want to take the time to discuss the continued importance of suicide prevention.

September is Suicide Awareness Prevention Month. During these next few weeks, and throughout the year, we need to be aware of any “life circumstances” that may cause our Airmen distress. This can be a unique challenge during the time of COVID-19, but our Airmen need to know that even though they may be quarantined at their workstations or home, that doesn’t mean they are isolated from their Wingmen.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, there is an average of 123 suicides each day in the United States, and suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in America. Preventing our Airmen, and all our loved ones, from becoming a statistic is preventable by checking our connections to our families, friends, co-workers and Wingmen. Despite the challenges of communicating during COVID-19, connecting to our Airmen can still be accomplished with social distancing, visible phone service applications and other visible phone service media.

If you suspect someone close to you is distressed please remember to follow these tips when confronting them: ask direct questions, listen to their answers and by a good Wingman, initiate a “safety check,” share what you know (or learn) about the situation and ensure they have access to professional help.

If we follow these steps, and use the tools that have strengthened us as Reserve Citizen Airmen, I truly believe we can save lives and strengthen our Air Force as a whole.