Why do we focus on suicide prevention?

  • Published
  • By Matthew Palmisano
  • 182nd Medical Group

“No matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does goes on, and it will be better tomorrow.” –Maya Angelou

September is Suicide Prevention Month, and why do we focus on suicide prevention? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide is a leading cause of death in the United States. Suicide among service members, veterans and their families is a public health and national security crisis. Suicide is the culmination of multiple factors and complex interactions. Yet, suicide is preventable. Every death by suicide is a tragedy and weighs heavily on the military community.

Ask, Care, Escort (ACE)
The ACE model can be applied to prevent suicide and support unit wellness. It consists of three steps:
1) Ask your Wingman directly about what’s going on;
2) Care for your Wingman by calmly listening and expressing concern; and
3) Escort your Wingman to an appropriate source of support.

Understanding the issues around suicide and mental health is an important way to take part in suicide prevention. Helping others who may be in crisis can make a difference and save lives.

- Research shows that people having thoughts of suicide feel relief when someone asks after them in a caring, non-judgmental way. It’s important to ask, “Are you thinking about hurting yourself?”
- Reduce a suicidal person’s access to lethal items. While it’s not always easy, asking if the at-risk person has a plan, and removing firearms or medications, will help.
- Contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 via call or text and/or make a connection with a trusted person like a family member, friend, spiritual advisor or mental health professional.
- Keeping in touch with the at-risk person after a crisis or discharge from treatment can help reduce that person’s risk.

Knowing the signs of a mental health “crisis” is generally a dramatic change in behavior that prevents someone from functioning as usual, or they express that they may harm themselves or others. Signs of a crisis can include:

- Difficulty functioning, such as trouble getting out of bed, going to work or doing daily tasks;
- An unwillingness or inability to take care of one’s personal hygiene;
- Intense or sudden changes in mood;
- Feeling increasingly agitated, angry or violent;
- Having suicidal thoughts or making plans;
- Harming oneself or heavily self-medicating with drugs or alcohol;
- Isolating or withdrawing from others.

The power of connection! Connectedness is a key protective factor that assists with combating the everyday risk factors people encounter throughout their lives. Successful suicide prevention efforts are linked to fostering connectedness—the vital relationships and interpersonal connections that individuals forge with family, friends, colleagues and their community.

Address stress before it becomes too much. There is expert, free and confidential support available for service members and military families to help address the challenges they face before they become overwhelming.

https://www.militaryonesource.mil/confidential-help/non-medical-counseling/military-onesource/ military-counseling-for-stress/

Please feel free to contact me. I am here to support you!

Matthew Palmisano, MSW, LICSW, US ARMY CPT (Ret)
Director of Psychological Health 182d AW
Mobile: 309-210-8390