The Air Force recommends maintaining a balanced lifestyle through Comprehensive Airman Fitness, or CAF. CAF encourages taking care of each other and ourselves through wellness in four domains – mental, physical, social, and spiritual. CAF can help instill or strengthen existing Protective Factors to help you cope with stress or challenges in positive ways.
Because everyone faces stress, it’s important to continually assess and strengthen those factors in your life that help you effectively cope with and overcome challenges. Protective Factors are positive behaviors and supportive connections that protect against stress. They are also an important element of suicide prevention. They include:
- Positive relationships with family, friends, and coworkers, as well as a sense of belonging
- Coping skills such as effective problem solving, goal setting, and knowing when to seek help
- And practicing positive thinking or beliefs such as:
- Acknowledging the positive aspects of a situation
- Maintaining positive expectations for the future
- Recognizing your ability to influence that future
- Believing things will get better even when they are going wrong
- Sustaining a sense of purpose or meaning in your life, and
- Holding religious or spiritual beliefs
11 Elements of the Air Force Suicide Prevention Program:
The AF Suicide Prevention Program is built on 11 overlapping core elements stressing leadership and community involvement in the prevention of suicides.
- Leadership Involvement: AF leaders actively support the entire spectrum of suicide prevention initiatives in the community.
- Addressing Suicide Prevention through Professional Military Education: PME provides periodic and targeted Suicide Prevention training for Airmen, specifically oriented to the individual's rank and level of responsibility.
- Guidelines for Commanders: Use of Mental Health Services: Commanders receive training on how and when to use mental health services and guidance on their role in encouraging early help seeking behavior.
- Unit-based Preventive Services: Helping-agency professionals partner with unit leaders to provide services at the work site to increase access, encourage help-seeking, and promote familiarity, rapport, and trust with Airmen and families.
- Wingman Culture: Wingmen practice healthy behaviors and make responsible choices and encourage others to do the same. Wingmen foster a culture of early help-seeking. Wingmen recognize the risk factors and warning signs of distress in themselves and others and take protective action.
- Investigative Interview Policy: Following any investigative interview, the investigator is required to 'hand-off' the individual directly to the commander, first sergeant, or supervisor. The unit representative is then responsible for assessing the individual's emotional state and contacting a mental health provider if any question about the possibility of suicide exists.
- Post Suicide Response (Postvention): Suicide impacts coworkers, families, and friends. Offering support early is associated with increased help-seeking behavior.
- Integrated Delivery System (IDS) and Community Action Information Board (CAIB): At the Air Force, MAJCOM, and base levels, the CAIB and IDS provide a forum for the cross-organizational review and resolution of individual, family, installation, and community issues that impact the force readiness and the quality of life.
- Limited Privilege Suicide Prevention Program: Patients undergoing legal action who are at risk for suicide are afforded increased confidentiality when seen by mental health providers.
- Commanders Consultation Assessment Tool: Commanders use a variety of assessments (e.g., Unit Climate Assessment, Air force Community Assessment Survey, Airman Comprehensive Asessment) recommended by appropriate agencies, to gain insight into unit strengths and areas of vulnerability.
- Suicide Event Tracking and Analysis: Information on all AF suicides and suicide attempts are entered into a central database, currently the Department of Defense Suicide Event Report (DoDSER), to identify suicide risk factors and trends.