The single leading cause of death in the U.S. Air Force is suicide. More Airmen died by suicide in 2019 than had been killed in combat operations during America’s longest war in Afghanistan. In 2019, 134 uniformed Airmen and Air Force civilian employees died by suicide, representing a 33% increase versus 2018 with 103 suicides. Thankfully, we’ve seen a small decline since 2019 due to several targeted efforts reducing total force suicides to 114 in 2022; however, that’s an increase from 2021 and we’re beginning to trend in the wrong direction again. The Air Force hopes a new initiative — distribution of free cable-style locks to secure personal firearms, medications, and poisons — can slow the upward trend.
Extra minutes are precious
Over the last 6 years, 70% of all Air Force suicides used a personally owned firearm — not military-issued weapons, according to data released by both the Pentagon and the Centers for Disease Control. Of those who died by suicide, less than 25% had their firearms stored in a manner consistent with the Air Force “Go SLO” Time Based Prevention program, ensuring personal firearms are either stored in a safe, locked with a cable lock, or put outside the home, putting time and space between a person’s decision to kill themself and the primary means of doing so. Cable locks provide a person time to calm down, rethink their decision and adds extra steps to prepare the firearm for use, which has proven to prevent suicide.
Although suicide rates in the military are like the civilian population, the military community is at increased risk, due to factors like continued exposure to high-stress environments, traumatic brain injuries, substance abuse and extended times of separation from loved ones due to deployment, remote tours, lengthy trainings and TDYs increasing feelings of isolation and disconnection. One of the largest risk factors is access to firearms, which members of the military are more likely to own and have at home according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Seek help early and often
Suicide prevention remains a difficult challenge, partly due to the challenges associated with military service as already mentioned, as well as the perceived stigmas related to seeking help. No gun lock program can eliminate suicide. Hill Air Force Base leaders are committed to helping Airmen build peer-to-peer “connectedness” through programs like “AFMC Connect,” “ACC Bridge Chats” and want all military and civilian Airmen to understand there is no shame in seeking help early and often; in fact, it’s a sign of maturity, growth, and strength. Airmen have a myriad of helping agencies available for free to support them in times of distress. Hill AFB military and civilian Airmen and their families may text keyword HILLCONNECT to phone number 94000 to receive back a listing of all on-base helping agencies with contact info located at https://www.hill.af.mil/Integrated-Resilience/ite/ Airmen and families may also dial 988 (or text) to reach the national crisis line 24/7/365. Airmen and families (age 15 an up) may also sign-up for a free four-hour “safeTALK” Suicide Prevention Skills Training held at The Landing Ballroom, Monday-Friday, March 27-31, by texting keyword SAVEALIFE to 94000. You and your family may register for one of ten course options held 8 a.m. to noon and 12:30-4:30 p.m. each day that week. Cable locks will be offered to all in attendance. Learn more at https://www.livingworks.net/safetalk
Where to get a free cable lock
In October 2005, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act made it unlawful for any licensed firearm importer, manufacturer, or dealer to sell or transfer any handgun unless the transferee is provided with a secure gun storage or safety device. That means AAFES was already required by law to provide a firearm lock at the point of sale, but the law has notable exceptions. If a weapon is transferred to another federal firearm licensee or law enforcement officer, a lock is not required. The legislation also exempts transfers by private sellers like what you might find at a gun show. The law also doesn’t apply to the sale of rifles, which are popular among military personnel. The Air Force cable lock giveaway program attempts to address those gaps.
The Air Force has shipped cable locks to every installation in the United States for distribution to service members and civilian Airmen, free of charge. Volunteer Airmen from across the installation came together on Feb. 7 to prep these cable locks for distribution across the installation. They are available on a first-come, first-served basis at seven locations on Hill AFB including the Military & Family Readiness Center (801-777-4681), Family Advocacy (801-777-3497), Mental Health (801-777-7909), Occupational Medicine Services (801-777-1155), the Base Armory (801-777-7916), the OO-ALC Community Resilience Program Manager (801-586-1046), and the Violence Prevention Integrator (801-777-4557). Regardless of branch, anyone in the military community, including civilian employees and dependents, can receive a free lock. For any questions on the cable lock or “safeTALK” training program please reach out to Dave Haltom at 801-777-4557, Hill AFB Violence Prevention Integrator.
(U.S. Air Force story by Dave Haltom)
|Date Posted:||02.15.2023 18:42|
|Location:||HILL AFB, UT, US|
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