Suicide Prevention Requires Face-to-Face Engagement

Suicide prevention is not just a medical issue, but also a community and leadership matter, Lt. Gen. Thomas Travis, Air Force surgeon general, told lawmakers. Prevention requires contact and interaction in addition to raising awareness, he said in testimony before the House Appropriations Committee’s defense panel on April 24. “You really have to do face-to-face with your airmen,” he said. “You engage with them and you ask them. And then you care for them, and if you’re still worried about them, you escort them to the right care,” he added. Those efforts are resulting in “quite a bit of success,” said Travis. While there has been “a slight increase” in the past few years in the number of airmen suicides, so far in this fiscal year, there has been “quite a decrease,” he said. The Air Force’s suicide prevention strategy comprises 11 elements including leadership and community engagement; education for airmen, supervisors, and commanders; and supporting those considered at risk, said Travis. (Travis prepared statement)