Families offer key to Airmen suicide prevention

Staff Sgt. Angela Pope
4th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

I’ve seen the effects of suicide twice since joining the Air Force.
I’d been in for almost two years, and a young Airman who lived down the hallway from me in the dorm hanged himself. My second brush with suicide happened recently. I hadn’t met him, but we lived in the same apartment complex.
Why did these two Airmen feel they had no other choice?
Though I didn’t know either of the young Airmen, I shed tears in both cases. It was partly because it hurts to lose a family member, but mainly because I’ve also felt suicidal in my life.
I was 15 and my best friend in the entire world died — my dad. All I could think about was being with him again, and saying the things I never got the chance to say.
My mom knew what I wanted to do and said something to me that shook my world. She told me my dad would be mad and wouldn’t want to see me if I did that, and I had no right to put her and the rest of my family through that. It took years for me to realize she was right.
Shortly after I joined the military, I married. The relationship rapidly deteriorated into abuse and divorce, and had a major impact on me. I was a wreck physically, mentally and financially. I couldn’t concentrate on work. I couldn’t pay my bills because of the debts incurred. I felt I was no good to myself or to the Air Force, and I wanted out.
Thanks to a warm-hearted supervisor, a caring doctor, a chaplain, a counselor and the Air Force Aid Society, I was nursed back to health and shown that I did have a place in the Air Force.
During two very hard times in my life, I had two different families on which to rely, two families who will do anything to keep me a part of theirs.
The rough times will pass. But please don’t feel like you have to tackle them by yourself.
Call a friend, your supervisor, your first sergeant, a chaplain or Life Skills. Call someone. Take it from someone who’s been there, suicide isn’t the answer. Family is.
(Ramstein Life Skills clinic is available at 479-2390, 06371-46-2390 or Landstuhl Regional Medical Center emergency room at 06371-86-8160.)