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Suicide prevention and awareness: Today, tomorrow and everyday

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. BreeAnn Sachs
  • 319th Reconnaissance Wing

The first time it happened I was a child.

I was innocent to the whirlwind of chaos around me, ignorant to the tragedy of a self-inflicted death. I had experienced loss to death many times before, but not like this.

The first time I was brushed by the cold hand of suicide, I could not understand.

The second time it happened, I did not have the luxury of childhood innocence. I was an adult, stationed thousands of miles away from everyone I loved. I still remember the cryptic text message from my mother, “We need to talk now.” I assumed something bad had happened, but was not prepared for the freight train that was about to hit me.

The most vivid memory I have from this experience is the blank and vacant look on my cousin’s face as he gazed upon his father’s grave. It was the kind of look that sends chills down your spine and stops you in your tracks. It is a look I hoped to never see again, and a feeling I would not wish upon my worst enemy.

Like me, he did not have the luxury of childhood innocence to shield him from reality.

I felt his overwhelming mix of emotions through his empty expression. His anger entangled with sorrow, misplaced guilt laced with regret and an overwhelming confusion hung in the air as he remained silent. A silence that takes the breath from your lungs.

It was in this moment I understood what I had not been able to before. It was in this moment I understood the true tragedy of suicide.

My loved ones could be described as warm, charismatic, humorous and captivating. There were few people they did not get along with. They were the kind of people you want to surround yourself with. They were the kind of people you would not expect this from.

It is impossible to determine the exact reason a person chooses suicide. It is the most personal and independent decision an individual can make.

Their choice was influenced by forces we outsiders cannot see and hear. Forces impossible to understand unless you have come face-to-face with them. Forces more powerful than anything you have experienced before.

Each of us battle these forces in our own way. Unfortunately, many of us have known or will know the pain, confusion and emptiness that’s left after a loved one loses this fight.

Suicide prevention and awareness should be part of our everyday battle rhythm. It can take form as a daily connection though a “good morning” as you walk through the door, or genuine concern and active listening when someone is ‘off.’

Every year September provides us an opportunity and a reason to openly speak about suicide, the factors that put individuals at risk and the factors that protect us, our loved ones and our wingmen. It’s uncomfortable, it’s off-putting and it’s no one’s favorite topic to discuss — but it’s important to push past that invisible barrier and confront those feelings. 

Losing a loved one, wingman, friend or co-worker to suicide is not your fault. There’s nothing more you could’ve done, it’s something that’s out of your hands. But, we can all come together to foster a culture of connection, care, protection and promote seeking help before a struggle turns to a crisis. 

Receiving help is protected by law, you cannot be discriminated against and you have a myriad of options available to you. You deserve happiness, you deserve to be in control and you deserve to feel whole.

Know your options, and know the options so you’re prepared to help someone else should you be called to.

Know you’re loved, know you’re valued, know you’re worthy of living and know you belong. 

The Military Crisis Line offers confidential help 24/7 by dialing 988 and pressing 1 or texting 838255.

Military One Source offers confidential services 24/7 online and by phone. You can call 1-800-342-9647 or visit

The Grand Forks AFB Military and Family Life Counselor offers free, confidential, non-medical counseling services and can be reached at (701) 405-5894.

Your local Chaplin and Chaplin’s assistants offer completely confidential guidance and counseling. The Grand Forks AFB Chaplain can be reached at (701) 747-5673 and at (701) 747-6711 after hours, just request the ‘On-duty Chaplain.’

The Air Force Employee Assistance Program offers support for civilian personnel, Non-Appropriated Funds employees, Guard and Reserve members and family members at no cost. AF EAP can be contacted 24/7 at 866-580-9078 or by using the applicable link below:

CIVILIAN EAP (CONUS) Use code “US Air Force”


You can also contact your local Military Treatment Facility to speak with your primary care manager or the Mental Health Clinic. The 319th Medical Group Mental Health Clinic can be reached at (701) 747-4460.

For a comprehensive list of local on-base resources visit 

For a comprehensive description of helping agencies available to U.S. Air Force and Space Force personnel visit 

For a comprehensive list of DoD resources visit the Defense Suicide Prevention Office’s website at