118: suicide/crisis resource at one's fingertips
KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- Confidential support for service members in a crisis can be as quick as dialing 118 from a DSN line.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or Veterans Crisis Line was established because dialing the 14 digit stateside number can be off-putting or frustrating. While mental health professionals and chaplains are on call 24/7, some may have their reasons for not seeking their help.
"Back in the states, one can dial straight to a 1-800 crisis hotline or a local hotline. Here at Kunsan, some may not want to talk to mental health because of the stigma and others may not want to talk to the chaplains because they don't subscribe to any of their religions," said Maj. Dennis Tansley, mental health flight commander. "Dialing 118 gives them a free, anonymous way to get a hold of someone when they're in crisis."
The 118 hotline affords the caller complete confidentiality and can be reached from any DSN line.
"It is anonymous and anyone can use it, just like a stateside crisis hotline," said Tansley. "That's part of the beauty of it for some of the folks."
For those who prefer talking to people face to face, there are several options on base to include military and family life consultants, chaplains and the mental health clinic.
Military and family life consultants (Bldg. 755) are trained to deal with issues that arise specifically from military life. These consultants are able to provide non-medical counseling and can be reached at DSN 782-2297.
Chaplains (Bldg. 501) are also available for confidential consultation to anyone who seeks it. Chaplains can be reached at any time through the command post or law enforcement desk.
The mental health flight (Bldg. 302) is also available at all times, providing walk-in service on an emergency basis.
"Don't be hesitant to contact us any time, day or night," said Tansley. "We're here for them. That's our mission. We're here to keep people in the fight, keep them in the game. We're here to salvage careers and lives and help people to learn how to help themselves."
The clinic provides on-call services like the chapel, and is staffed with a social worker, two psychologists and technicians who can talk with patients while they are waiting.
"Make use of your resources. Call the 118 number; you have us, the chaplains, military family life consultants, your friends and family, your unit," said Tansley. "Tap into any of your resources so you're reaching out for help before you hurt yourself or possibly end your life. There are solutions even though at the time it may not look like it. There's plenty of support and a safety net that's willing to get you back on your feet."
The first line of detection usually starts with Airmen and certain signs may clue them into another's dire situation.
According to the Veterans Crisis Line website, a person in crisis may appear sad or depressed; seem anxious, agitated or unable to sleep; neglect personal welfare; withdraw from friends, family and society; lose interest in hobbies, work or school; express feelings of excessive guilt or shame; or talk about feeling trapped and saying that there's no solution to their problems.
Those contemplating or preparing for a suicidal act include poor performance at work or school, engaging in reckless or risky activities that could lead to death, showing violent behavior, giving away prized possessions, getting personal affairs in order, or seeking access to a means of harming oneself.
If one starts to notice such signs, it's important to should take the steps outlined in the suicide prevention concept called "ACE." said Tansley.
A: Ask your wingman. Have the courage to ask the question. Stay calm. Ask them directly, 'Are you thinking about killing yourself?'
C: Try to calmly control the situation. Actively listen and try to understand. When someone is listening to a person in distress, it automatically produces relief. Remove any means that could be used for self-injury.
E: Escort your wingman. Never leave your buddy alone. Get them to someone in your chain of command, mental health, primary care, chaplain, anyone.
"The bottom line is to keep folks alive and keep them in the fight and also suggest folks get help when you think they might need it - not coerce, but suggest," said Tansley. "That's the whole wingman concept - taking care of yourself, taking care of each other, so we can move forward as a team."