I read a most disturbing article this weekend; which states 140 active-duty soldiers had committed suicide this year, the same recorded as the total for all of 2008. Many of these soldiers had never deployed, some have deployed once or twice. The words struck me as sad and scary.
Then I happened upon this article, which helped a little...
Airman driven to action after friends’ deaths
MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — A Misawa-based staff sergeant — shocked to learn that two former co-workers had killed themselves after leaving Japan — has taken to the airwaves to remind military members that suicide isn’t the answer to life’s problems.
Staff Sgt. Stephen Terrell, with the 35th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, said the two were more acquaintances than good friends, but it was still "hard to take the news."
"I remember the last conversations I had with both of them," Terrell said, adding that co-workers almost become like family in the military.
The bad news had such an effect on Terrell that he decided he wanted to film a public service spot to be played on the American Forces Network, putting local faces on an important message. AFN agreed, and Terrell wrote the script and enlisted a few friends to help.
When drafting the script, Terrell decided to focus on what he thinks are three big problems that could cause someone to consider suicide: work stress, a failed relationship and financial woes.
Terrell got Senior Airman Robert Leggett to play an airman with the problems. Leggett’s wife, Destiny, played the "girlfriend" breaking up with him. Staff Sgt. Chad Bradfield plays the angry boss, and Tech. Sgt. David Bruce is the angry creditor calling for his money.
Most importantly, Senior Airman William Seaver is the friend who calls with an important question — "I just wanted to see how you’re doing" — as Leggett stares at a bottle of pills.
Taking the time to check on people, Terrell says, is the key "to prevent things from happening like this in the future."
He said he’s heard a lot of feedback from people in the community who have noticed the commercial among the other suicide prevention spots that air on AFN.
And he hopes it will help persuade anyone thinking of suicide to reach out for help.
Mental health personnel at Misawa laud Terrell’s effort, saying that the message comes loud and clear when it’s delivered by fellow members of the community.
"We think it’s a great thing," said Senior Airman Samantha Conway, a mental health technician. "It shows that actual airmen are worried about the issue too, not just the professionals."
The first line of defense, she said, are "the people that know you and the people who work with you."
By T.D. Flack, Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Tuesday, November 24, 2009