MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. --
September is National Suicide Awareness Month and the South Carolina Air National Guard leadership wants Airmen to know where to turn for help.
According to the Defense Suicide Prevention Office in July, 479 U.S. troops committed suicide in 2013. That's an annual rate of 18.7 per 100,000 for active service members, 23.4 per 100,000 for Reserves, and 28.9 per 100,000 for National Guard. Since 2009 there have been 16 South Carolina National Guard Soldiers and Airmen who have committed suicide, and the one common theme to each was relationship problems.
"People should look out for each other," said Mimi Meriwether, wing Director of Psychological Health. "Often time people are afraid to ask. You don't have to have all of the answers, but know where to get help."
Meriwether said at McEntire there is a Wing Care Team comprised of herself, the Chaplain staff and Family Programs available anytime to help. If someone is thinking of hurting themselves, there are other places they can turn for help. Anyone can call the SCNG Behavioral Health Care Line, open around the clock every day, at 1-800-681-2558.
"We're human. There is a breaking point for everyone," Meriwether said.
Factors that lead to increased risks are lack of social support, employment or financial difficulties and relationship issues.
Knowing the warning signs of someone thinking about suicide are key.
· People talk about dying or hurting themselves
· Self-destructive behaviors such as excessive drinking or reckless driving
· Extreme behavioral changes
· Changes in hygiene
· Isolation from friends and family
Anyone who suspects a coworker, friend or family member may harm themselves should seek help.
"The Air Force, as a whole, does a phenomenal job of promoting resiliency and a strong sense of community," said Meriwether.
September gained the status of Suicide Awareness Month because Sept. 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day and Sept. 7-13 is National Suicide Prevention Week.