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They Want Us to Know

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --

Whether you’re in the military, a civil servant, or both, you’ve no doubt participated in suicide prevention training. It’s mandatory. We learn how to recognize warning signs and how to appropriately respond. We see incident-based scenarios, usually an Airman experiencing surmounting stressors, i.e., financial, familial, and legal struggles. The training wraps up with a friend or co-worker escorting the Airman to help. 

While the training is certainly valuable, and I know of actual circumstances that ended much like our training videos, the focus is on our Airmen. So when I received a call last year from my daughter’s middle school calmly informing me my 14-year-old daughter was planning to kill herself, I was unprepared.  What had I missed? I knew the warning signs. She’d never been in trouble, her needs were met. She certainly had no legal problems, her parents were divorced and lived separately, but she’s loved and valued. The months of March through July were a whirlwind. I didn’t know if I was coming or going, I wasn’t sleeping well, and the trauma of being suicidal wasn’t even mine. My daughter wasn’t talking. She didn’t know why she was feeling that way, she just didn’t want to feel it anymore. 

While visiting my daughter during an in-patient stay, I saw a flyer titled, “Every Voice Matters: What I Wish You Knew.” It was a local teen panel, presented by Deep Roots, a teen board branch of Pikes Peak Suicide Prevention. I thought I knew all the facts, warning signs, and actions to take, but I didn’t have access to my daughter’s thoughts, emotions, or triggers. After attending the local events, I learned these kids are struggling more than we know. I’ve learned more about the pros and cons of social media and that our young people are experiencing greater stressors and influences than we could imagine. 

Three hospitalizations, hundreds of hours of therapy, genetic testing, and multiple medication changes later, things are starting to look up. While I’m not sure how long, if ever, it’ll take to be “out of the woods,” what I do know is that I’m still learning along the way. There’s so much I wish I knew long before all of this started.

Adolescence and young adulthood are transitional stages, present many challenges and certainly joys. While teens are uniquely susceptible to suicidal tendencies for a variety of reasons, it’s not just our children who fall into this group. Look around your work centers; our young military and civilian co-workers could be experiencing emotions, thoughts and triggers similar to those of our teens. The possibility someone close to you is suffering without your knowledge is likely. Someone out there is wishing you knew.

I hope you’ll join us at the R.P. Lee Youth Center on Peterson Air Force Base, March 1, 2019, at 6p.m. where the Teen Board will share their stories with our community. We hope you walk away with a little insight into what those around you just may want you to know.

Peterson SFB Schriever SFBCheyenne Mountain SFSThule AB New Boston SFS Kaena Point SFS Maui