Suicide Prevention Month: How to early intervene, recognize at risk individuals

by Glen Corlin 86th Airlift Wing
Violence Prevention Office
Photo by Little Perfect Stock /

Suicide prevention is everyone’s responsibility. An important key to suicide prevention is early requests for help. Some individuals that are suicidal may “broadcast” their intentions or they may display other risk factors and warning signs for suicide. It is, therefore, important to take each and every risk factor and/or warning sign seriously. I have been to bases where someone recently committed suicide and a significant amount of the individuals on the base were educated on key risk factors and warning signs. After all, we take suicide awareness classes every year. When asked why certain individuals did not intervene, some stated “I didn’t think s/he was serious” or they were not sure how to intervene. This emphasizes the significance of taking each and every potential risk factor or warning sign seriously and knowing how to intervene early to help save lives.   

It is imperative to note that ANYONE can be at risk for suicide. You may know people that you think are mentally resilient and would never consider suicide, but we know everyone has different levels of resilience and in the face of extreme hopelessness or difficulty some may develop suicidal thinking that results from significant psychological distress. It may be referred to as a “Cascade of Events.” It can be triggered by a multitude of stressors … the end of a relationship, work problems, alcohol issues, financial problems, etc. An example can be someone who is having relationship problems. How do they handle it? Do they go out and drink, which may lead to a DUI? Now, besides having relationship problems, they also have legal and financial problems. Command then finds out about the DUI and now they develop occupational problems. The stressors start piling up. What was one issue (DUI) now cascades in to multiple issues. The person may feel significantly overwhelmed and, at some point, develop the idea that suicide as a viable option. It is important to note that there are also individuals who experience suicidal thoughts or behaviors that exhibit no warning signs or indicator as to why. However, the majority of people that contemplate suicide do give warning signs and have risk factors. Recognizing key risk factors or warning signs are important in identifying at risk individuals and ultimately may save lives.

Some significant risk factors include:

  • Relationship problems; loss of loved ones
  • Prolonged stressors
  • Substance misuse
  • Prior history of suicide attempts
  • Major life transitions (PCS, promotion, retirement, marriage, divorce, etc.)
  • Multiple indicators of vulnerability (work, relationship, financial, legal, or alcohol problems)

Some of the warning signs can be put in the following categories:


  • Giving away possessions, saying “good-bye” to loved ones
  • Withdrawal (family, friends, school, work)
  • Loss of interest in sports and leisure
  • Isolation
  • Increase alcohol or drug use
  • Impulsive/reckless behavior
  • Self-mutilation
  • Extreme behavior changes


  • Lack of interest in appearance, hygiene changes
  • Change/loss in sex interest
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Change/loss of appetite, significant weight loss/gain
  • Significant physical health complaints


Talking about death or dying, having a suicide plan or voicing intent

  • “All of my problems will end soon.”
  • “No one can do anything to help me now.”
  • “Now I know what they were going through.”
  • “I just can’t take it anymore.”
  • “I am a burden to everyone.”
  • “I can’t do anything right.”
  • “I just can’t think straight anymore.”


  • Any dramatic mood change
  • Desperate
  • Increased anger or rage/agitation
  • Overwhelming guilt or shame
  • Worthlessness
  • Lonely
  • Depressed/Sad
  • Hopeless/Helpless
  • No purpose
  • Feelings of being an unbearable burden on family, friends or society

By being aware of these, and other, risk factors or warning signs, we can take action to help those contemplating suicide.  What can you do? If you notice any of the warning signs from co-workers, friends, family members or new acquaintances, it is important to communicate. What do you say? You ask, “Are you thinking about suicide?” or “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” They are likely to tell you if asked directly, whether they are or are not contemplating suicide. What would you do if someone said, “Yes, I am thinking about killing myself?” Stay with the person until help arrives. Never leave an individual who has expressed imminent risk for suicide alone. If you are able, remove all weapons, substances or other means of harming self from the area. If you are on the phone with an individual whom you believe is in immediate danger, try keeping them on the line while someone calls emergency services. If this individual is unwilling to accept help, contact their command or law enforcement. It is important to remember, when you ask someone if they are suicidal, be prepared for an answer. You may be the first person to ask. The suicidal person may want to talk. Let them. You don’t need to supply them with answers and/or solutions. Just listen. Let them know what you plan to do, and accompany them until you have successfully handed them off to a caregiver, leadership or law enforcement. A helpful tool is utilizing the ACE model: Ask your wingman, Care for your wingman, and Escort your wingman.

Who might you hand off a suicidal person to? Below is a list of helping agencies in our area.


Ramstein North Chapel: 480-6148 or 06371-47-6148

Ramstein South Chapel: 480-5753 or 06371-47-5753

Vogelweh Chapel: 489-6859 or 06315-36-6859

Chaplains Service: 480-2121 or 06371-47-2121

Mental Health: 479-2390 or 06371-46-2390

Family Advocacy: 479-2370

SARC Main Line: 480-7272 or 0637-147-7272

SARC Hotline: 06371-47-7272

SARC on-call cell number: 01728-21-4871

DoD Safe Helpline – (877) 995-5247

Suicide Prevention Hotline: 00800-123-TALK (8255) or DSN 118

Military Family Life Counselor: 0152-2421-1233 / 0152-0266-3352

Chain of Command

Police (Dial 112)

Proceed to LRMC E.R.