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Suicide prevention: raising self-awareness at Osan

Help yourself then help someone else. 
(U.S. Air Force graphic/Staff Sgt. Amber Grimm)

Help yourself then help someone else. (U.S. Air Force graphic/Staff Sgt. Amber Grimm)

OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- Over the past five years, the Air Force has experienced an increase in suicides. To combat this and in recognition of September being National Suicide Awareness month, Team Osan has dedicated this time to raising awareness about the issues of suicide prevention, educating Airmen about available resources and about how we can all be good wingmen by fostering a community that makes it a personal responsibility to help others in need.

One of the best ways to help others might be as simple as self-awareness. The military as a whole is considered a high-stress environment, deployments and oversea remote tours far from family can increase those stress levels. Add in bills, long hours at work, and the constant reminder that Osan remains in a perpetual state of watch and wait preparedness for escalated hostilities, such as in August when artillery fire was exchanged across the demilitarized zone, and it's easy to become frustrated.

"Every one of us in the military face different stressors," said Maj. David Weller, 51st Medical Operations Squadron, mental health element chief. ""How do you make sure that your day to day activities put you in a position that you have the strength to take on bad news versus this being the piece that overwhelms you?"

Weller explained this is why along with counseling; the Mental Health office offers classes every Friday on how to deal with common stressors.  The classes range from how to manage anxiety deal with symptoms of depression, how important adequate sleep is and successfully managing a long-distance relationship.

"There's a balance between what you can do as an individual and what we can do as a team. Personal accountability is a major factor to the individual and team effort; we all need to play our part to make sure that we are fit to fight. Outreach and counseling can help to build a healthy emotional point from which you can handle things," said Weller.

"We want Airmen to feel valued and connected," continues Weller. "Whether it's with family, friends or the people they work with every day, when people have a sense of purpose and have established a relationship to the world around them they are less likely to succumb to negative emotional situations."

The mental health clinic partners with various base agencies to promote resiliency and help-seeking behavior.  They would like to encourage anyone who is feeling hopeless or having thoughts about taking his/her own life to talk to a friend, family member, supervisor, first sergeant, chaplain, or Military and Family Life Consultant.

"American Airmen are agile, innovative, and always accomplish the mission! To do this, we overcome obstacles every day, both professionally and personally. I urge you to guard and strengthen that resilience. Take care of yourself, your family and fellow Airmen. If you see someone in need, help them. If you're the one struggling, make the right choice and seek help from a friend, a supervisor, or a professional. The strongest, most capable warriors I know fully understand their limitations and embrace the fact that their mission success, and their resilience, rely on the team around them," said General Mark A. Welsh III, U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff.  "Take care of yourself ... and take care of each other."