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It's A Wonderful Life

Harrisburg -- (You may have been expecting the last part of a four part article on The Airmen's Creed; which I will try to get back to next month. Instead, this month I felt the need to talk about an issue that continues to impact the military as a whole, and our Pennsylvania National Guard family as well.)

We recently received word that we lost another one of our own, a Pennsylvania Guardsman, to a self-inflected gunshot wound. The Soldier was 25 years young and was having on-going personal challenges; was unemployed and having relationship problems. We also had a young Airman recently overdose on pills. Thankfully, the Airman received help in time.

There are times when the best of us (probably each and every one of us) will feel or have felt helpless, hopeless, overwhelmed or even worthless. Life's pressures can get to us all sooner or later. I know there've been times when I wondered if I was going to make it, and get through what I perceived as an overwhelming issue or problem. No one is immune to having suicidal thoughts.

I was recently reminded of the movie It's a Wonderful Life. The main character, George Bailey, is a man whose life seems so desperate that he contemplates jumping off a bridge. The key word here is "seems." As he's about to jump, his guardian angel Clarence stops him and shows him all of the lives he's touched, and what would have become of his family and friends had he never been born.

We don't often realize just how we've touched the lives of others. Doing what we think is a small thing for someone could be huge in that person's eyes, even life changing. During the movie, George is shown by Clarence just how much of an impact he made in the lives of others.

There may not always be signs but we should always be looking. Those working though challenging times need to know help is available and more important, to be open to getting help; this takes strength. No problem calls for ending one's life.

If you suspect someone might be contemplating suicide, remember ACE. ACE stands for Ask, Care and Escort. Ask - talk with the individual. It's okay to ask them specifically, "Are you thinking about killing yourself?" It may be difficult or feel uncomfortable to do, but it's critical to ask. Care - intervene, calmly control the situation, actively listen and remove any means to do self injury. Escort - get them to a chaplain, primary care provider or other health care professional. If the person refuses, call 9-1-1.

A few resources which can help someone through challenging times include the following:

Wingman Project, www.WingmanProject.org; Military One Source, 800-342-9647, www.MilitaryOneSource.com; National Suicide Prevention Lifeline - 800-273-8255; Suicide Prevention Resource Center - www.sprc.org. One other resource on this and various other subjects is the Air National Guard Family Guide which can be found at www.ang.af.mil/shared/media/document/afd-111128-048.pdf.

It's best to err on the side of caution; the worst that could happen is you face a bit of embarrassment. The best is that you save a life. Be someone's Clarence, because it is a wonderful life.