Chaplains pray for those thinking suicide

  • Published
  • By MSgt Jennifer Seidl
  • 97th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
It was small gathering; a few professionals and some who came simply because they care. Some have been touched by tragedy, and others are doing what they can to avoid it. Each of those present believe in a Higher Purpose.

"Let us pray..."

Chaplains at the Altus main chapel gathered at the invitation of the Air Force Chief of Chaplains Dec. 14. Designated as a Day of Prayer for "those who may be experiencing thoughts of suicide," the low-key event was an effort to heighten awareness and, for those who believe in the power of prayer, to change a life.

The gathering was not a program or special service; it was a coordinated time for prayers on a specific subject, one that is an increasingly urgent topic in the Department of Defense, the Air Force, and Air Education and Training Command; suicide and suicide prevention.

The intent of the Chief of Chaplains was two-fold: to raise suicide sensitivity among the Chaplain Corp, and the deep spiritual belief that prayer has an effect on any situation, according to Lt. Col. Kenneth A. Harp, 97th Air Mobility Wing chaplain.

All were welcome at the chapel. In attendance were military and civilians, men and women, chapel staff members and others.

"I don't think there's any metrics for prayer answering; it's all based on faith," said Master Sgt. Scott W. Redeen, chapel Noncommissioned Officer in Charge here.

Chaplain Harp said he hopes the event will those who are considering a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

"The chapel corps confidentiality provides a safe place for individuals to get help. Confidentiality means we don't report it back to your commander, your supervisor, your 'shirt' (First Sergeant), your spouse ... and that many of life's problems can be resolved when you have a safe person to talk to," said Chaplain Harp.

This chapel event is one of many ways Altus AFB is working to reach out to those who need help. In November, the base shut down flying operations, and dedicated Nov. 24 as "Wingman Day." Units and individual work centers gathered to discuss the signs of someone in distress who might be suicidal, and how to help.

"I think (Wingman Day events) do a lot for caregivers, and caregivers would be anyone; supervisors, first sergeants, commanders." said Sergeant Redeen. "I think it does a lot to raise concerns; what are symptoms, what are things we should be looking for, what are the questions we should be asking? I think those special days really do make a difference, as far as educating us, those that would be in a care giving situation."

How can we tell if the increase in briefings, the constant reminders, the web sites, the prayer services, if the efforts being made to reach out are helping?

"That is the question that is often asked and the honest answer is that it would be hard to document success. The better question is: Are we doing all that we can to prevent suicide?" said Chaplain Harp.