Reaching help: Easy as 1-1-8

ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England --

The joys of spring are looming on the horizon, and upcoming warm weather activities are on every Airman's mind.

To some, spring means spring break, sunshine, blossoming flowers, and wildlife re-emerging from hibernation, but with all the happiness and joy this time of year should bring, there are individuals dealing with depression and coping with the stresses of everyday life.

In 2011, U.S. Army Europe and U.S. Air Forces in Europe launched a suicide prevention hotline to better reach troops stationed overseas.

"All calls go directly to one primary call center for our (overseas) folks," Scott Harris said, U.S. Army Installation Management Command-Europe strategic interest group agreement specialist. "This is beautiful because it allows the call center to become more familiar with our base populations to provide better assistance."

Airmen should be aware of the warning signs of suicidal persons:
  • · Any talk about suicide, dying or self-harm; such as "I wish I hadn't been born," "If I see you again", or "I'd be better off dead"
  • · Preoccupation with death, dying or violence
  • · Writing poems or stories about death
  • · Searching the Internet for self-harm methods and seeking access to guns, pills, knives or other objects that could be used in a suicide attempt
  • · Making a will, giving away prized possessions or making arrangements for family members
  • · Withdrawing from friends and family, increasing social isolation or desire to be left alone
  • · Self-destructiveness: Increased alcohol or drug use, reckless driving, unsafe sex or taking unnecessary risks as if they have a "death wish"
  • · A sudden sense of calm and happiness after being extremely depressed can mean the person has made a decision to commit suicide.
A good wingman should also be looking out for depression symptoms that may lead to harm:
  • · Feeling sad or "blue;" trouble eating or sleeping; excessive alcohol or drug use, intoxication or change in drinking pattern; stressful life events; feelings of helplessness, hopelessness and being trapped ("there's no way out")
  • · Believing things will never get better or change, or there is no hope for the future
  • · Expressing worthlessness, guilt, shame or self-hatred
  • · Feeling like a burden ("everyone would be better off without me")
The new hotline, DSN 118 or commercial 00800-1273-8255 provides a consistent number for people to use, but simplicity is not the only benefit.

The Veteran's Administration-provided hotline has trained professionals to counsel everyone who calls.

"They will support active duty, veterans, family members, civilians and students," Harris said. "They don't necessarily need to know who you are -- they are there to help."