Cannon Air Force base uses airmen to help prevent suicides

Cannon Air Force base uses airmen to help prevent suicides
Air Force Men & Women (Source: KFDA)
Air Force Men & Women (Source: KFDA)

CLOVIS, N.M. (KFDA) - Cannon Air Force Base has specialized airmen who are social workers, chaplains and even counselors who watch for unusual behavior in those they work with on a day-to-day basis.

"These people work within the squadrons, that's a person that sees them day-to-day, so, they will be able to recognize how someone typically acts," Mahogany Swanson, Cannon AFB Clinical Psychologist said. "So, they can pick up on those nuances that other people don't pick up on as readily."

The base has 196 facilitators who help complete annual training sessions for different squadrons to ensure they know resources are readily available.

"As far as our training goes, currently we are sitting at 93 percent complete training across the wing, that's our civilians and our active duty population," Mary Zuercher, Cannon AFB Community Program Coordinator, said. "On a daily basis, I pull those numbers by groups and by squadron so that we know as a team, which squadrons need a little bit more training."

The base recognizes those who work in security forces, intelligence and maintenance are more likely to have risky behaviors.

These groups have an age range between 18 to 25 and will receive training quarterly.

In July, Cannon base witnessed a maintenance squadron airman's death, with preliminary findings suggesting that he took his own life.

With incidents like this, the base will also send out disaster mental health workers who hold free counseling for squadrons who suffer a loss.

"So, we are all preparing for that potential of a suicide," Swanson said. "If one does occur, there are steps that we have to follow. A lot of us will be as available as we can to a suffering squadron or family members that were affected, to let them know they have a place to go to."

These resources at Cannon are not only available to airmen but also to their families and friends.

To keep families and airmen healthy and educated, the suicidal prevention teams, clinics and chaplains work to bring other programs and classes to the base.

In other ways to also de-stress airmen, the base will dedicate full days off to allow them to participate in special activities and sports.

For more information about suicide prevention within the air force visit their website.

If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide, a National Suicide Hotline is available here.

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