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Vandenberg observes Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

September is nationally recognized as Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, during which resources are promoted and several events are held to bring light to suicide prevention. For more information on suicide awareness, contact mental health at 805-606-8217. (courtesy graphic)

September is nationally recognized as Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, during which resources are promoted and several events are held to bring light to suicide prevention. For more information on suicide awareness, contact mental health at 805-606-8217. (courtesy graphic)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --

September is nationally recognized as Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, during which resources are promoted and several events are held to bring light to suicide prevention.

Suicidal thoughts or symptoms can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender or background. There are multiple warning signs friends, family and colleagues can look for in their loved ones.

“Warning signs can be your everyday stressors,” said Staff Sgt. Crystal Orellana, 30th Medical Operations Squadron mental health NCOIC. “But when you’re talking about risk factors, that’s when you’ve noticed a dramatic change in someone. Some of these factors include irritability, anger, depression, relationship problems, talking about death and suicide, acting reckless, insomnia and sleep issues, seeking means to access weapons, and giving your belongings away. There are also threats of harming or killing yourself, or withdrawing from family, friends and society.”

These feelings can sometimes leave people feeling vulnerable and disgraced, which in turn prevents them from attempting to open up or seek help. With an array of resources at their disposal, however, those struggling can overcome these feelings.

“There are a lot of things you can do, but certainly talking about it is probably the first step in trying to work out whatever those issues are,” said Capt. Kristie Midence, 30th MDOS clinical social worker. “A lot of times people are scared, in denial, or they don’t want to tell people they’re having these thoughts. There are so many helping agencies here to assist anyone at a moment’s notice; mental health, the chaplains, Military Family Life Counselor, MilitaryOneSource, even the psychologists in the Behavioral Health Optimization Program.”

While there are a plethora of organizations devoted to the well-being of Airmen, suicide prevention awareness isn’t just a duty for some – it is the responsibility of all.

“The other side to suicide prevention awareness is educating people out there on the risk factors and the warning signs so they can take that step and reach out to that person in need,” said Orellana. “Suicide prevention awareness is everyone’s responsibility. Not just the mental health providers, but everyone on base. Your co-workers, supervisors, everyone should be checking in on each other and making sure they’re doing alright.”

Part of that education lies within the Ask, Care and Escort method, otherwise known as ACE.

“ACE is super simple and straight to the point,” said Orellana. “A lot of people, though, are scared to ask that question, because they don’t know what’s awaiting them on the other end of that question. That’s where that care and escorting comes into play. Not leaving them alone and making sure you reach out to a supervisor or a first sergeant, and escort them to the chaplain or the clinic.”

Showing love and support to those struggling with mental illness is vital not just this month, but every single day.

“Bringing awareness to suicide prevention is essential,” said Midence. “A lot of people struggle with thoughts of suicide or have lost someone to suicide. We definitely want to bring out the awareness all over base through different activities to encourage people to seek help early or help guide those who are struggling to their friends, family, or co-workers. Then, we can encourage them to go to any one of the helping agencies.”

For more information on suicide awareness, contact mental health at 805-606-8217.