480th ISRW combats suicide ideation with knowledge

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Ashley L. Gardner
  • 480th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing
Over a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, the 480th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing is looking toward the light at the end of the tunnel. The Wing’s Airman Resiliency Team has taken several approaches to enhance the lives of the individuals in the unit. Mental health has played a unique role in the Airmen’s lives; coupled with suicide prevention tools, the team has developed a new way to increase the knowledge of our Wing’s Airmen.

Lt. Col. Sonia Pons, 480th ISRW psychologist, created a workshop specific to the Wing that is less about what to do when someone is suicidal and more on how to, as a supervisor or peer, identify when people show trends of suicide ideations.

“The medical community and the prevention community focus on suicide prevention, but rarely do you find how we prevent the development of carrying out the plan,” said Pons.

Suicide ideations are the thoughts, ideas, or ruminations about the possibility of ending one's life. It is not the act of planning suicide but it is the process that can lead to the in depth contemplation of self-harm or execution.

“Our Wing’s Airmen are very good at solving abstract conflicts, so we developed a program that matches that culture,” stated Pons.

In March of 2021, Pons held the first suicide ideation prevention workshop with the 497th Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Group.

“This is probably the most effective and beneficial training I’ve had in the topic of suicide,” said Staff Sgt. Joan Olmo Ortiz, 497th ISRG superintendent executive assistant. “It was less about what to do when someone is suicidal, and more so how to as supervisor identify when people show trends of suicide. She took the time to explain the differences and presented it in a way that was digestible and easy to understand.”

The workshop is designed to be interactive. It starts with some questions that are designed to create the space for conversation followed by exercises that allow you to communicate and team build. While having discussions it allows people to see the inconsistences in the value of life.

“The workshop helped me understand suicide ideation better than what I did before,” said Tech. Sgt. Jarel Fernanders, 480th ISRW wing mission management NCOIC. “Knowing the chain of events and environmental factors that precede suicide prevention is crucial to developing the empathy needed to address a situation. It makes me feel more confident knowing that there is much more than just stress and issues that can contribute to the ideation of suicide. It is something that needs to be taken into account when dealing with these issues.”