Friday, January 17, 2014

COMMENTARY >> Message from Commander

By Col. Patrick J. Rhatigan
19th Airlift Wing commander

Airmen of the 19th,

It’s with great sadness that I report Team Little Rock lost an Airman this weekend to a reported suicide. The death of one of our own shocks and sickens us. Our first thoughts must immediately turn to the grieving family and friends, and give them our full support during this senseless tragedy.

I need all Airmen to close ranks and reach out to others by asking the simple question, “What can I do to help you?” Many people will have different reactions upon hearing this grave news, so be actively engaged to help them through this period. Also, I ask that you pay particularly close attention to those who already may have been depressed or contemplating suicide.

We must reiterate that every human life has value. Suicide does not solve anything, and leaves behind many loved ones who must cope with anger, disappointment and guilt. Suicides are preventable, so we are all disappointed when someone chooses suicide. Our Air Force has so many alternatives available to help our Airmen cope with the stress that life presents. Your physical, spiritual, mental and emotional health are critical to your quality of life, and in turn, your ability to do the mission and defend the Nation. That’s why our Air Force has Comprehensive Airman Fitness, to give you the tools to deal with the more distressing events that life throws at us. Resilience is the ability to work within the face of adversity and come out stronger on the other side. 

The Wingman concept was made for times like this. Look out for each other. Ask the question, face to face, with someone who may be struggling. While no segment of the Air Force is immune to suicide, there are known high-risk populations and known common risk factors, like relationship problems, alcohol or drug misuse, discipline or legal issues, financial troubles and a history of mental health diagnosis. Our Air Force recognizes suicide as a major threat to the wellness and readiness of our Force, one that requires active and persistent involvement from commanders, supervisors, and peers at all levels of the organization. 

Every Airman’s life is valuable. Please help me in preventing suicides...your leadership matters.

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