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Don’t Fear the Conversation

BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. --

No one imagined he would kill himself, but he was drunk, had the means, and felt like everybody would be better off if he wasn’t around.  These thoughts couldn’t be farther from the truth, but a single traumatic event triggered an emotional crisis that led someone to contemplate suicide for the first time in their life.

This scenario was laid out by Chaplain Jon Farquhar, the 307th Bomb Wing Deputy Chaplain, to communicate the importance of suicide awareness and prevention.

“Chaplains generally don’t know the people who come to them for help,” said Farquhar.  “The real power lies with the coworkers and the family to speak up when something feels off."

The Veterans Crisis Line maintains that nonverbal warning signs include: withdrawing from family and friends, giving away prized possessions, and getting their affairs in order.

“It may seem like giving someone space is the caring thing to do, but in reality, if a person is already experiencing suicidal thoughts, then leaving them alone only perpetuates that wrong thinking,” he said. “Suicidal thoughts often surface when people feel alone or isolated while experiencing the effects of a vulnerable state of mind.” 

Farquhar stressed the message of not letting the fear of a person’s reaction keep Airmen from starting a conversation that could end up saving someone’s life.

“As chaplains we can talk to them and just be a voice of reason outside of their own head and still allow them to be in control,” said Farquhar. “At the end of the day, it’s hard to know if someone is suicidal or not…so you never know when simply reaching out and letting your wingman know that you care is what pushes them to see what tomorrow holds.”

September is suicide prevention month. If you are asking yourself what you need to know to raise awareness about suicide prevention, you can find more information at https://www.veteranscrisisline.net/get-help/military-crisis-line.