Connect to Protect - September is Suicide Prevention Month

  • Published
  • By Dr. Stephanie Grant, Director of Psychological Health
  • 144th Fighter Wing

2020 has been the perfect storm: a pandemic, schools closing, civil unrest, people losing their jobs, and now the wild fires.  Many of us are trying to navigate a new normal in the midst of overwhelming life stressors.

The purpose of Suicide Prevention Month is to bring awareness to this important issue and to educate. For the last few years in the Air Force, we have used the hashtag #BeThere emphasizing how important it is to be aware—to pay attention to your fellow wingman, to recognize warning signs, and to be mindful when others around you need extra support or resources.

This year the 2020 slogan is #ConnectToProtect.  We know that connections are critical for our well-being and ongoing health.  However, first and foremost, #ConnectToProtect, starts with #BeThere for yourself.  Taking care of yourself is as important as taking care of others.

You may be wondering, how do I do that in the midst of 2020? Here are some suggestions:

Develop Healthy Habits and Ways to Cope with Stress

Healthy Habits and coping strategies will keep you strong and resilient. It starts with taking inventory and being mindful of how you are doing right now. If you were to give yourself a grade, how are you doing considering all areas of health (physical, mental, social, and spiritual)? What changes can you implement today that will increase your wellness in at least one area?  What resources do you need? Part of connecting with yourself is knowing what your “go-to” coping skills are and how you normally deal with stress.  The reason it is important to recognize how you normally cope with stress is to help you identify when your coping skills are becoming overwhelmed and may not be effective.

An example of a stressor may be sleeping only two or three hours a night when you are used to sleeping for eight hours. That can make you are more irritable and you may respond by starting to drink more. You may experience anxiety or panic attacks. These are all indicators that you should reach out to a close friend, a coworker, a supervisor, or any of us on the CARE Team to help you get back to a place where your “go to” coping skills are effective again.

Know the Resources that Are Available to You and Others

There are a host of great resources out there.  Your Care Team is available to assist you in connecting to resources.  We’ve developed a 144FW Resource List that is available on the 144 FW App and on our information tables.  Volunteering to join a group is another great strategy to care for yourself and others.  There is great synergy being part of a group whether it is focused on a shared activity or in support of a cause. The connections made in groups can have a significant impact on how we deal with everyday stressors and on our overall feelings of well being.

Know When to Consult with a Professional

Last but not least, know when to consult with a professional. There is no shame in asking for help.  We will all need some extra assistance at some point in our lives. Most of all remember, it is important to get help before you are in crisis. When someone is beginning to notice that his or her coping strategies are becoming overwhelmed by the numbers of stressors occurring, it’s a good time to check in with a professional.

144th FW Care Team

Maj. Clayton Diltz, Wing Chaplain                              (559) 210-4015

Tech. Sgt. Adele Rosas, Religious Support                (559) 246-8829

Staff Sgt. Kristine Berry, Religious Support                (559) 349-2560

Master Sgt. David Oakley, F/T 1st Sergeant              (559) 960-5403

Dr. Stephanie Grant, DPH                                          (559) 260-5929

Mr. James (Dan) Sowers - SARC                              (559) 285-3667

Ms. Dorene Vierra - AFRPM                                      (559) 530-7807

Ms. Wen Wen Wu - Financial Counselor                   (559) 374-8688