An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

September is Suicide Awareness Month

  • Published
  • By Don Roussel
  • 157th Air Refueling Wing Director of Psychological Health
September is Suicide Awareness Month. I want to make you aware of the number one cause of suicide--depression. There are many factors that contribute to depression and I will highlight a couple here. Lastly, actively engaging in a health plan is the best defense against depression, and by extension keeping us safe from suicidal thoughts or plans.

It may be helpful to think about depression as the culmination of many adverse emotional and physical experiences that we endure day in, day out in our lives. We are all familiar with the phrase, "The last straw on the camel's back." Any one straw cannot break the camel's back. It takes many straws.

Depression is made up of many factors over a period of time, which becomes unbearable for us to effectively manage. For instance, feeling trapped in a situation that we perceive as negative, might be one contributing factor. Add a legal problem, followed by an increase in alcohol consumption which can lead to loss of hope or sense of helplessness. Unchecked, these factors keep accumulating and can bring us closer to suicidal thinking.

Day-to-day, most of us handle situations that may contribute to depression rather well. We do not become overwhelmed to the point that we think about ending our lives through suicide. I want to turn back to the "straw on the camel's back," metaphor: Some of the factors contributing to depression are when we arrive at feeling overwhelmed by adverse emotions, thoughts and or enduring chronic physical pain. Being proactive can be our best defense against depression and thoughts of suicide.

What can we do to mitigate feeling overwhelmed and subsequently having suicidal thoughts and or plans? Having a health plan is the best way to stave off feeling overwhelmed, and to safeguard against thoughts of harming oneself. Also, as a fellow wingman, you can reach out to someone you trust in your unit or, if you notice someone struggling in your unit, reach out to them.

Your plan needs to include having a social support system--they help us vent. Continual exercise of some form is also essential, such as running, biking or yoga, for example, also help us to release stress in a healthy manner and at the same time creates mental vigor. Getting enough restorative sleep allows us to meet the many demands in our lives much more effectively and easier, quite frankly.

Lastly, if you are actively engaged in working your health plan and are still feeling overwhelmed and have thoughts of harming yourself, or are contemplating suicide, you will need to reach out for help. This is essential. Please contact me at 603-430-3373 (603-498-7132 after normal duty hours) or as my meetings with you are confidential. I can help you sort out the factors in your life causing you these thoughts, feelings and emotions. I can become part of your health plan, which instills hope and allows you to gain power and control over your life.

You can also call 1-800-273-8255 press 1, the Veterans Crisis Support Line.

You can also call 911, or go to your nearest hospital emergency room for help in a time of need. The bottom line is that getting help works. If you do not reach out for help, you are at increased risk of taking your life.