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Know your wingman: Practice suicide awareness year round

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --

“Be a good wingman.”

We hear this phrase all the time in the Air Force. It’s ingrained into our culture. Being a wingman is synonymous with being an Airman.

Being a good wingman means knowing and investing in those around you. No matter your rank, taking the time to learn about your fellow Airmen can make all the difference in the world.

September is Suicide Awareness Month. Throughout September, the Air Force and many other government and nongovernment agencies strive to raise awareness and promote a healthy culture of open dialog between people that can then be carried with them through the rest of the year.

Even though we focus our attention on Suicide Prevention this month, it’s important to keep in mind that every day is an opportunity to learn something about your peers. In many cases, both downrange and on the home front, service members spend more time with each other than with their families and friends. As a result, we’re able to be aware of changes in behavior or interests of others.

This puts us in a unique positon to really become involved with each other. Take an interest in your coworkers’ hobbies. Learn about where they came from and where they want to go. Being a good wingman goes further than just running with your buddy during PT or going to lunch together – it’s about knowing when something’s up and having the courage to approach them and talk about it.

Maintain good relationships with the Airmen around you. Together we can help build and strengthen the pillars of Comprehensive Airman Fitness – mental, physical, social and spiritual – and create a strong support network to deal with stressors.

As members of Team Keesler and the “Dragon” family, we should be committed to taking care of each other.  As September draws to a close, don’t push suicide awareness off to the side – know that speaking up can make a world of difference. Know the signs. Have a conversation and more importantly follow-up. Remember: Ask-Care-Escort.

Finally, if you need help but don’t want to talk to your wingman, there are other options. Mental Health can be reached at 377-0385, the Chapel is available at 377-4859 and online resources include the following and more.

http://www.wingmantoolkit.org/

http://www.af.mil/SuicidePrevention.aspx