HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – Hanscom is employing a new approach to suicide prevention called Time-Based Prevention. This Air Force initiative is intended to reduce the hazard of firearms being readily available when an Airman is in distress—particularly in those crucial first five minutes after someone decides to take their life.
“Having a gun lock or a gun safe is something that delays them from using that firearm,” said Jocelyn Foo, Hanscom’s violence prevention integrator. “We are hoping that it will provide the time to start thinking about their actions, because when they pick up the firearm, it is just a reaction at that point.”
This approach focuses on the “means” of suicide, instead of the “why.” Research shows that one in four suicides occur within the first five minutes of an individual making the decision to harm themselves. Ninety percent of these attempts are lethal if a firearm is used. According to the Dept. of Air Force Resilience, any barriers put in place to prevent the intended suicide method can be successful in stopping an attempted suicide, as most individuals never seek access to another method.
“This effort began at Hanscom this June when I introduced it to base leadership,” said Foo. “This is a combined suicide prevention and firearms safety message.”
Time-Based Prevention focuses on proper storage of personal firearms, which has numerous overall safety benefits for household occupants. Safely locked and stored firearms, or firearms safely stored outside of the home, require deliberate actions to access and operate. Taking these preventive steps creates a barrier that can assist in preventing suicide attempts.
“Hanscom received 1,700 gun locks, which will be available for free in various locations across the installation,” said Foo. “If people want some, they can contact me.”
She added the Safety office and unit first sergeants will have some for distribution as well.
Deaths by suicide have increased among Air Force personnel in 2019 relative to previous years. In the Air Force, 70 percent of suicide attempts involve the use of personally-owned firearms.
“We are not forcing people to take the locks and we are not tracking who takes one,” said Foo. “They are free and they are for absolutely everybody who can come onto Hanscom: military, civilian, dependents, or retirees.”
Time-Based Prevention will be incorporated into Air Force culture, similar to ongoing efforts related to alcohol use and driving.
“It is intended to become a continuous safety message,” said Foo. “Commanders and supervisors should add this message to their repertoire of safety topics that they discuss with their personnel in order to promote safety, health, and wellness in the Air Force.”
The Air Force says that Time-Based Prevention efforts are not intended to limit or prohibit the legal ownership or use of firearms for individuals. This initiative is about the safe storage of firearms in order to prevent their use by at-risk individuals.
“It’s all about being a good wingman,” said Foo.
For more information, contact Foo at Jocelyn.email@example.com.