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Exercising to prevent suicide

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. James Hodgman
  • 379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
More than 100 service members participated in the Cross Fit Undisclosed Suicide Awareness Workout event at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, Feb. 6.

The event was organized to bring more attention to suicide prevention. In the first quarter of 2015, 57 active-duty military members committed suicide. That’s an average of 19 suicides a month.

Master Sgt. Neil Wattier, 763rd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron first sergeant, said one suicide is too many and events like the “Suicide Awareness Workout” can help people who may be going through difficult times.

“I can’t imagine what someone must feel, when they reach that overwhelming sense of hopelessness, where they believe there is nowhere to go and no other option,” Wattier said. “In addition to losing a valued member of our community, family and friends are left behind to struggle and cope with grief and unanswered questions. It is our responsibility to ensure no one feels as though they have been abandoned to struggle on their own.”

“This event emphasized all four Comprehensive Airman Fitness pillars,” Wattier said. “Physical fitness helps people remain healthy and provides an outlet for stress, the social aspect was visible by people working out in a group and supporting one another. Mental and spiritual health is encouraged by highlighting the many resources available to help people effectively cope with unique mental stressors.”

The workout consisted of two exercise events, one at 9 a.m. and another at 4 p.m. Each exercise session featured 22 exercises and participants had to perform 22 reps of each exercise. Movements included lower body, upper body and core focused exercises such as kettlebell swings, deadlifts, sit-ups and air squats. At minute 22, a two-minute moment of silence was observed.

Mental health professionals and military family life consultants were on hand to provide service members with information on suicide prevention, as well as ways to reduce stress, anxiety and prevent depression.

Senior Airman Kendra Lee, Joint Communication Support Element U.S. Central Command Forward Headquarters cyber transport journeyman, said she’s glad the event was offered.

“Suicide is a huge problem and this is a different way to bring attention to suicide prevention and it’s an excellent way to reduce stress,” she said.

Cross Fit workouts are also a great way to bring people together and develop friendships, Lee said. Everyone here turns into family and the Cross Fit family is an amazing support group, she added.

“Having support is important, especially when people are so far away from home, they may be stressed out or dealing with anxiety,” Lee said. “Exercise is a great way to alleviate all that.”

Lee was the first participant to finish the morning workout session with a time of 29 minutes and 45 seconds. The support she talks about was on display until the last participant crossed the finish line at both workout sessions.

When each participant finished the workout, he or she quickly drank some water and cheered for others to finish. Many even ran the final 220 meters of the course with others to help keep them motivated.

That same support is needed to prevent suicide, Wattier said.

“Everyone is responsible for being engaged with the people around them, taking their training seriously and improving their knowledge and skills to identify those at risk and help them seek help,” he said.

Preventing suicide is a major focus area for Staff Sgt. Samuel Patton, 379th Expeditionary Medical Group mental health technician, who manned the mental health table at both workout sessions for several hours.

“Suicide is a big problem and sadly they happen too often,” Patton said. “That’s why we are here, we want to help people and hopefully eliminate smaller issues before they become something bigger.”

If you or someone you know is at risk for suicide, help is available. The 379th EMDG Mental Health Clinic can be reached at DSN: 437-8767 and MFLCs are available at the Airman and Family Readiness Center at DSN: 437-8729. Service members and their families can also call Military OneSource to obtain free and confidential counseling at 1-800-342-9647. A chaplain is also available 24-hours a day, seven days a week by calling the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing Command Post. For more information about suicide prevention, visit