September is Suicide Prevention Month

September is Suicide Prevention Month

September is Suicide Prevention Month and military and civilian members here, as well as their family members, have resources available to them. (U.S. Air Force Medicine graphic)

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – September is Suicide Prevention Month and military and civilian members here, as well as their family members, have resources available to them.

In an Air Force Surgeon General article published earlier this month, the service’s suicide prevention manager spoke about the need for involvement at all levels.

“To combat something as complicated as suicide, we need leaders at every level involved,” said Lt. Col. Alicia Matteson, the Air Force suicide prevention program manager.

Leading that effort on base are Hanscom’s Helping Organizations, known collectively as H2O. This team is active in fostering a resilient community through outreach and prevention, awareness and education and providing a strength-based approach.

“Social connections and a sense of belonging are two powerful protective factors that help people be resilient and deal effectively with stressful events,” said Carolyn McCafferty, Hanscom’s community support coordinator. “The Air Force encourages resiliency by maintaining a balanced lifestyle through Comprehensive Airman Fitness.”

Comprehensive Airman Fitness, or CAF, looks to enhance the resilience of individuals, families and communities through a wingman concept and the four wellness domains of mental, physical, social and spiritual.

One of those domains, mental, is led by the 66th Medical Squadron’s Mental Health Clinic.

“There are a number of resources available to members of the Hanscom community who are feeling hopeless,” Capt. John Doleski said, a Family Advocacy officer. “They include individual or couples counseling services, parenting support and other prevention services to address a wide range of issues and concerns before they lead to serious life stressors.”

Earlier this month, Hanscom’s senior leaders handed out ACE cards to members of the workforce as they arrived to the base in the morning. The cards provide information about how to Ask, Care and Escort someone who may be contemplating suicide.

In any given year, more than 40,000 Americans die by suicide. According to a Massachusetts Department of Public Health report on suicides, in 2014, the latest data that is available, 608 people died by suicide in the Commonwealth.

Suicide touches the lives of many people, including those at Hanscom.

One year ago, Ray Erne, a contracting specialist for Battle Management’s Operations Command and Control Division, took his own life.

Erne’s supervisor, Paul Cincotta, recently spoke about the telephone call from Erne’s wife, Janet, informing him.

“That was a tough call,” Cincotta said. “I was stunned, devastated. There is no supervisory class that prepares you for this; it was an exercise in empathy and sympathy.”

In an email to Hanscom’s contracting community, Ken Main, who worked with Erne, reflected on the anniversary of his death.

“Suicide isn't something any of us really like to talk about, but I would submit it's something all of us should be talking about,” he wrote.

Main included information about a suicide prevention event Erne’s wife and daughter, Christina, are participating in to raise awareness about this epidemic.

“Unfortunately, suicide is way too familiar to too many of us,” Main wrote. “I hope by sending this note maybe a conversation will take place that otherwise wouldn't have, or maybe a double-take and response to your co-worker or family member: ‘hey, you sure you're ok?’.”

There are many resources available to military and civilian members, their families and friends about suicide prevention.

One here on base for military members and their families is the Behavioral Health Optimization Program, which is available through the clinic scheduling system at 781-225-6789 directly or through a referral from your primary care physician. The Military and Family Life Consultants at 781-879-7654 are also available for service members.

Those military members and veterans who need immediate help are encouraged to call the Military Crisis Line and speak to a counselor by dialing 800-273-8255 and pressing 1. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a resource to all Hanscom personnel; the Lifeline Hotline number is 1-800-273-8255.

Additionally, the Be There Peer Assistance Line is a peer support call and outreach center available to service members across the Department of Defense, including the National Guard and Reserves, as well as their families. The peer support program offers coaches 24/7 through chat, email, phone and text. Communications between peer counselors and those who call are confidential.

Other resources on-base includes chaplain services at 781-225-5501 for military and civilian members.

For civilian employees, the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) provides a full range of services including and off-base counseling, seminars, webinars and more. Employees and their family members can call 1-800-222-0364 for referral and assistance.

For further additional information and resources on suicide prevention, visit the Air Force’s suicide prevention office at http://www.airforcemedicine.af.mil/SuicidePrevention/ or DOD’s page at http://www.dspo.mil/.