HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. -- September is Suicide Prevention Month, a time set aside for military and civilian members here, as well as their families, to become familiar with resources available to help end death by suicide.
The 2019 observance follows the Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David L. Goldfein’s Resiliency Tactical Pause directive, meant to challenge the stigma of seeking help and provide an opportunity for leaders to engage with Airmen and build interpersonal connections throughout the units.
“Our research shows that the single most effective protective factor against violence and suicide is a strong sense of community,” said Sonju Bucci, 66th Air Base Group violence prevention integrator.
Bucci is responsible for the health and wellness of all Hanscom community members. She is working to ensure that all installation personnel are not only educated on the signs of suicide but armed with the tools to prevent it.
“We need to first start with raising awareness that suicide is an epidemic in our [Air Force] community, and then move onto prevention,” said Bucci. “We need to make our people aware that there are signs and ways to step in.”
Throughout the month, community members are encouraged to participate in events aimed at raising suicide awareness and teaching prevention techniques.
Despite Suicide Prevention Month being an annual initiative, Bucci believes more people have been getting involved with the education process following the RTP directive.
“This is a hard topic and it can be really uncomfortable,” said Bucci. “With all of these tactical pauses, though, our people have been able to have those honest conversations and start to understand how to recognize the signs. They are really looking out for each other.”
Senior Air Force leaders are encouraging members to take the training seriously and utilize the lesson plans in their daily lives.
“Connect and break down barriers to getting help,” wrote Lt. Gen. Robert McMurry, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center commander, in a letter to the Center personnel. “Own this time and make it personal.”
“The more we talk about this and discuss the services available and the different ways to prevent suicide, the better off we will be as a community,” she said.