Ellsworth offers many programs to fight the stigma of suicide

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. (KOTA TV) - Suicides in the US Air Force increased by one third in 2019 that's according to an official Air Force report.

The water tower at Ellsworth Air Force Base

The report shows there were 136 total suicides with 84 of those people on active duty in 2019 compared to 103 total suicides during 2018 with 60 people on active duty.

Dennis Wier is the Ellsworth community support coordinator.

"Anytime someone passes away from whatever cause it will affect their friends and coworkers," said Wier. "As part of that just like anything else we're doing, we're out in those units looking for those who might need to beef up their resilience skills or just have a friend to talk to."

Recently, military members at Ellsworth were trained to be that friend. 32 people took a suicide intervention course called "living work assist" and another 165 became "safe talk" trained.

"There is a strong connection between mental health and physical health, they are very interdependent and that's why our health promotion office deals with the physical side connected with the mental health side to build a strong and resilient airman who can deal with the challenges of day to day life while they're home and then deal with the challenges when they deploy someplace and have to engage in those kinds of operations," said Wier.

Some of those challenges are separation anxiety, unsureness, and even mental challenges because of physical injuries...

"We have military, family, life counselors, they are embedded into the squadrons. These are licensed counselors that people can come and talk to without fear and retribution of impacting their career," said Wier. "Obviously we have the mental health clinic and we have the chaplain program, so those are all places people can go and talk and try to get another perspective on how to deal with what's bugging them."

No matter what the challenge, Ellsworth offers options for people to get the help they need.

If you are in need of help please call 1-800-273-8255.