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Suicide Prevention Month Resources

 In PPH Blog

September is recognized as Suicide Prevention Month here in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is a leading cause of death in the U.S. and was responsible for nearly 46,000 deaths in 2020. As a non-profit organization that works closely with Veterans and Active-Duty members of the military, we know that a large number of that 46,000 pertains to them. So, in honor of this month of prevention, we at Paws for Purple Hearts would like to provide anyone reading this with some resources that might help you, or someone you care about, who might be struggling.

Christina Trombley is an embedded mental health technician for the 3rd Maintenance Group through the True North program at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (JBER) in Anchorage, AK. She has been in this position for about two and a half years and has personally seen many Airmen effected by suicide. Trombley says the main impacts are increased levels of stress and a lack of outlets to relieve that stress. “There are a lot of folks who are not willing to discuss personal things, so building rapport and trust during my visits within the unit helps build the gateway to earning their trust to allow them to speak when they are comfortable. I’ve seen it impact not only their work, but their home life as well, coping skills come in handy when addressing mental wellness concerns,” said Trombley. At JBER, the members of Trombley’s unit have the embedded True North team that consists of mental health providers, as well as an embedded chaplain. There is a military crisis line, the national suicide hotline, the mental health clinic on base, the ER, military one source, the Military Family Life Consultant (MFLC) and a number of applications, such as “Objective Zero”.

JBER Airmen socializing with Kreitzburg
JBER Airmen socializing with Kreitzburg

Trombley is also in her second year of hosting an Annual Suicide Prevention Training on base at JBER. “I enjoy teaching this class. The feedback has been positive and very interactive. The Airmen really enjoy the small groups versus using a PowerPoint presentation. The small groups enhance more interaction and allow folks to speak freely, instead of feeling like they are being talked at with a slideshow. The idea of small groups is to facilitate discussion amongst the members and encourages free flowing conversations and thoughts. In groups like this, we learn a bit more about each other rather than just staring at a screen. “I look forward to teaching more classes in the upcoming months,” said Trombley. We at the Paws for Purple Hearts – Northwest team have seen a huge impact in morale when working with the Airmen and Soldiers at JBER. The dogs allow the participants to lower their guard and relax, regardless of what kind of stress they have seen throughout the day. We have brought our dogs to base to participate in this training and it always brings a smile to the participants and allows them to open up to us about their day, their experience with dogs and sometimes things that have made their day difficult.

A class like this may not be something that every military installation offers, but there might be something similar in the area where you live. All Department of Defense members have an annual training requirement for this subject but it’s more than just a “check the box training.” Trombley says that it’s important for us, as humans, to interact more on a conversational level during these small groups. “COVID really hampered that so now that we are able to gather face to face, the small discussions and sometimes personal experience stories really help others learn more and retain the information rather than just reading a slide,” she added.

For anyone suffering from suicidal thoughts or if you are looking for more resources to help someone that may potentially cause themselves harm, please call “988” or visit https://988lifeline.org/

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