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Walk a mile in their shoes

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Sarah Hall-Kirchner
  • 6th Air Mobility Wing public affairs
Death. Work. Stress. Divorce. Custody disputes. Finding a balance.

Everyone has problems in their lives and everyone handles their problems differently.

When I had substantial problems in my life, I didn't handle them like everyone else.

I cut myself.

I thought I was dealing with everything well. I felt like I was okay and still wore a smile. However, on the inside I was screaming with pain.

My entire life was crumbling around me. I had no friends and no one cared.

Or so I thought.

One night after a hard day of work, life and family stressors, I broke down. It was all too much to handle. I cut deeper than I ever had before.

I didn't mean to do so much damage. I reached out to someone in my office.

I thought my life was about to end, but it didn't.

My friend followed the Air Force's instructions for suicide awareness and prevention.

He drove to my house and took me to the hospital, even though I didn't want to go.

I told him I hated him. He still helped. I told him I'd never speak to him again. He still helped.

He called a chaplain, my commander, my superintendent and my first sergeant.

He made sure I knew of every resource the Air Force had made available to me.

After the hospital released me my first sergeant took me to mental health and I received help from a mental health provider.

I talked to my commander, the medical group commander and the wing command chief.

I went to an outpatient mental health facility for three months to get better mentally.

A year later, I'm still in therapy. A year later, I'm still healing. I'm doing a whole lot better.

I'm not just healing myself; I'm healing the relationships that I damaged. I'm rebuilding my life.

I've witnessed the pain that I caused my family, friends and coworkers. I have seen my supervision and the wing leadership bend over backwards to help me out of that bad place.

Not only did my life have to completely start over because I made a bad choice, but I had to keep this big secret from everyone.

I was afraid and embarrassed to say, "Hey, I'm depressed and need some extra support," because there was no one I felt comfortable to talking to.

People refused to interact with me. People did not understand what was going on because I was keeping it a secret. My actions scared people. I lost relationships.

My entire life changed.

I had hurt myself and I had hurt other people.

Why share my story?

The United States military as a whole saw 349 suicides in 2012. Members of the Air Force accounted for 59 of those suicides.

Comparatively, there were 229 service members killed in combat in Afghanistan.

Those statistics show that more military members ended their own lives than died fighting for the Constitution we promised to uphold.

Maybe you are overwhelmed like I was.

Or, maybe you are supervising or sitting next to someone who is at the end of their rope.

Perhaps you are their friend, their spouse, their parent, their child, their sibling or their co-worker.

The Air Force stresses resiliency and provides countless classes on suicide awareness and prevention.

There are computer based training modules, videos, 24-hour crisis lines and interactive training sessions all geared towards preventing suicides.

The Chaplain Corps is available to help those who reach out for it. The mental health and family advocacy clinics offer individual or group counseling sessions for stress, anxiety, depression, anger management, adjustment difficulties, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and other psychological concerns.

We are told to take care of our Wingmen.

We are well informed and trained.

However, Airmen grumble and complain when they have to do their yearly training or go to an all-call about suicide awareness.

Yet still, the Air Force is still experiencing the tragedy of suicide.

The Air Force cares about Airmen.

We have to take care of each other so that this situation happens as little as possible or not at all.

Talk to your Wingmen. Listen to their story and try to get to know them. Is there anything in their life that might push them to the breaking point?

Listen during those classes and actually take the time to read the CBTs instead of clicking through the slides to receive your certificate.

This is real life. Everyone has problems. You could save a life.