Suicide prevention: A leadership challenge for all

HICKAM AIR FORCE BASE, Hawaii -- Every time a life is lost in Pacific Air Forces I am alerted. All are tragic in different ways, but among the most troubling is when it involves a suicide.

During the course of my 35 years on active duty, I've learned that we cannot prevent every suicide attempt. More importantly, I've learned that we can prevent many through good leadership--connecting with our people and recognizing signs of distress.

The Air Force Suicide Prevention Program has led to a 28 percent decrease in suicide rates during the last 10 years and fortunately PACAF has been consistently below the Air Force rate. Again, what this means to me is that good leadership at all levels makes a difference. We must encourage our teammates, friends and family members in distress to seek help and to follow up regularly until the problem is resolved.

While Air Force life can be one of the greatest experiences you'll ever have, it can also be overwhelming at times. Meeting the high standards our nation expects often requires frequent moves, deployments to hostile environments, and long hours. This can be stressful on both our Airmen and their families.

Healthy, supportive relationships are key to dealing with this stress and have been shown to be the main factor in helping people get through difficult times. We need to continue to emphasize the value of healthy relationships, foster an environment of caring, and continue to be good wingmen.

Eva-Marie and I are proud to be associated with all of the Airmen, civilians and family members in the Pacific. We all share the common bond of service and sacrifice as we accomplish our mission in this, the greatest Air Force in the world. Please stay engaged as a supervisor, friend and wingman. One Airman lost to suicide is one too many.