JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md --
Airmen from the 113th Wing took time during drill weekend for a Resilience Tactical Pause following an increase in suicides within the Air Force.
“The number one thing killing us is not our enemies from wars in Afghanistan or Iraq” said Brig. Gen. Keith G. MacDonald, commander 113th Wing, while speaking to a group of airmen. “It’s suicide, and it’s 100% preventable.”
According to a video posted online Aug. 1, Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth Wright said 78 airmen have taken their own lives so far in 2019. If the trend continues, the Air Force could lose 150 to 160 airmen that way this year, Wright said. The service saw about 100 suicides per year in each of the last five years.
The Resilience Tactical Pause is not intended to be an effort where we check the box, but a movement where units will focus on fostering conversations between airmen and command leaders to encourage airmen to speak openly about their problems.
“I want to emphasize that seeking help will not negatively impact your career,” said MacDonald. “We need to remove the stigma behind seeking help.”
During the tactical pause, members from the 113th got together in small groups and shared stories, life experiences, and provided feedback about things that may help them and others feel connected with the wing and their workplace.
“Life is a bunch of peaks and valleys,” said MacDonald. “There is no rank that’s immune to life’s stressors and you need to have something or someone to help you cope through those peaks and valleys.”
Suicide and interpersonal violence are serious issues that require comprehensive, seamless prevention, intervention, and postvention responses from exceptional leaders. In order to support readiness and build a more lethal force, leaders must foster and promote resilience among their Airmen, according to the Air Force Resilience website.
In his closing remarks, MacDonald encouraged everyone to participate and have authentic and meaningful dialogue.
“This can’t be someone else’s responsibility,” said MacDonald. “You can solve all the problems that lead you to suicidal thoughts and we can help you solve them. Every life matters.”
If you are struggling with depression, having suicidal thoughts or just need help with a challenging life issue, please talk to a friend, family member or co-worker. Free counseling is also available through Military One Source for servicemembers or through the Employee Assistance Program for civilians.
If you have a friend, family member or co-worker who has expressed suicidal thoughts, do not dismiss it or leave them alone, immediately take them to a qualified care provider.