Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass. – September is National Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month, and the Suicide Prevention Month committee is conducting a number of activities here to spread awareness of suicide in the Air Force along with ways to prevent it.
This is all a part of the annual Department of Defense-wide campaign against suicides. This year’s theme is “Connect to Protect,” emphasizing the connectedness between families, friends, co-workers and communities.
“Our team has come up with a lot of creative ways to support suicide prevention,” said Jocelyn Foo, violence prevention integrator. “Col. (Katrina) Stephens, Chief (William) Hebb, and members of the Suicide Prevention Month committee greeted people at the Sartain Gate the morning of Sept. 3. They handed out life savers candies and flyers with contact information for suicide prevention and assistance programs to drivers as they were entering the installation to help kick off this year’s effort.”
All month, mental health professionals, prevention organizations, survivors, and community members will unite to promote suicide prevention awareness.
Foo said the Suicide Prevention Month team is looking at an additional date later in the month to engage with personnel at the gate again, perhaps as people are leaving the installation.
“We also provided informative flyers to the commissary for the baggers to put in shopper’s bags,” she said. “The flyers detail crucial statistics, warning signs to look for, contributing factors, and protective measures one can use to support individuals.”
According to the Air Force Suicide Prevention Program’s website, over 40,000 Americans die by suicide every year. The Air Force Times reported that in 2019, 137 AF personnel, both military and civilian, committed suicide.
In addition to active duty members, Foo mentioned suicide statistics of veterans.
“We have ‘work-out’ flyers that are posted throughout the workout stations in Castle Park,” she said. “On the flyers, the exercises are all in the number of 22. This is based off a study that said 22 veterans commit suicide every day.”
There are many groups and advocates for suicide prevention that people can reach out to for assistance. The Department of Veteran Affairs’ “Make the Connection” campaign, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, the Military Crisis Line, and Military OneSource are just a few of the avenues one can take to get help and information.
“At Hanscom, personnel will see silhouettes placed at various spots on the installation this month,” said Foo. “They will have information on suicide statistics and protective factors, with Hanscom Helping Agencies, contact information and links on who you can reach out to, or things that you can do to assist. We will be rotating them around base throughout the month of September, so keep an eye out for them.”
Foo also said that they will be hosting a guest speaker via Zoom on Sept. 22 at 11:30 a.m. Retired Senior Master Sgt. Kevin Wallace is an Air Force veteran who survived a suicide attempt and has been awarded notable decorations such as the Bronze Star with Valor device and a Purple Heart. He is an active ambassador for the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program.
Personnel can join that Zoom meeting at: https://www.zoomgov.com/j/1617135347 Meeting ID: 161 713 5347.
For more information on National Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month and the “Connect to Protect” effort, contact Foo at Jocelyn.firstname.lastname@example.org or HanscomResilienceCell@gmail.com.