BeThere campaign raises suicide awareness among military

MCGHEE TYSON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Tenn. -- Each year over 40,000 Americans die by suicide. That is why September is dedicated as Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. The Department of Defense has also launched the BeThere campaign to raise awareness for the rising number of suicides among Service Members, and the campaign provides an opportunity to highlight available resources and to educate members on identifying warning signs of suicide, as well as interventions.

The Defense Suicide Prevention Office (DSPO) stated in the first quarter of 2016 there were 110 deaths by suicide between Active Components, Reserves and National Guard services.

Of those 110 suicides, five were members of the Air National Guard.

Colonel Thomas Cauthen, commander of the 134th Air Refueling Wing, informed his Airmen that they all play a vital role in the success of this campaign.

"It is our everyday connections that make a big difference and afford us an opportunity to become aware of those that may be in need," said Cauthen. "No special training is needed to safely talk about your concern for your fellow service member. Reaching out can include calling, meeting for coffee, going for a walk or even sending a Facebook message."

In a memorandum released by Ashton Carter, United States Secretary of Defense, he states that two common factors that may lead to suicide are 1. the service members' being reluctant to ask for help or 2 seek appropriate treatment based on perception or to ask for help.

"This campaign emphasizes that everyday interactions with others can have a significant impact on our well-being, as well as that of others," said Carter. "Making that personal connection may help someone feel less isolated and open to safely talking about suicide risk."

Being part of the military is more than just a job, it is about being part of a family and taking care of one another to ensure we are all mission ready.

According to the DSPO, communities, peers, close individuals and the media are critical in preventing death by suicide and if  concerned about a friend or loved one:
· Be direct. Talk openly and matter-of-factly about suicide.
 
· Be willing to listen. Allow expressions of feelings. Accept the feelings.
 
· Be non-judgmental. Don't debate whether suicide is right or wrong, or whether feelings are good or bad. Don't lecture about the value of life.
 
· Get involved. Become available. Show interest and support.
 
· Don't dare him/her to do it.
 
· Don't act shocked. This will put distance between you.
 
· Don't be sworn to secrecy. Seek help.
 
· Offer hope that alternatives are available, but do not offer general reassurances such as, "it will get better" or "it could be worse."
 
· Get help from persons or agencies specializing in crisis intervention and suicide prevention, such as Military Crisis Line.

Besides turning to friends or loved ones for help, there are also many professional organizations, as well as mobile apps, that are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Additional resources include Chaplains, who are available at all hours and provide 100 percent confidentiality, as well as the Military Crisis Line. Available mobile apps include Guard Your Buddy and Ready54 Resiliency which connect people who are in need to a crisis line.

To view all the resources available visit the DSPO website at www.dspo.mil and to learn more about the mobile apps go to http://t2health.dcoe.mil/products/mobile-apps.

"As we approach fall, remember to BeThere, by looking out for one another, anticipating potential difficulties and utilizing drill weekends to strengthen relationships," said Cauthen. "BeThere, not only with your words, but with your actions."