U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Staff Sgt. J.D. Strong II
- The US Air Force has ordered all units to stand down for a one-day operational pause to address rising suicide rates, the service said.
- Every unit will select a day between August 1 and September 15 to spend looking for ways to address suicide in the service, it said.
- The Air Force said it has had 78 suicides so far this year, 28 more than this time last year.
- "Suicide is an adversary that is killing more of our airmen than any enemy on the planet," Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein reportedly told commanders.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
The US Air Force has ordered all units to stand down for one day to address rising suicide rates, the service said in an emailed statement.
As part of the "Resiliency Operational Pause," each unit will select one day between August 1 and September 15 to look at ways to address this problem, it said.
The pause "is about giving our airmen time back to connect and break down barriers to getting help," the Air Force said, adding that "this is the start of an ongoing dialogue about the force's well-being."
The service said it had seen 78 suicides this year, not far off the total for last year. The Air Force has had about 100 suicides a year for the past five years, Air Force Magazine reported. The figures for this year point to an upward trend.
"Suicide is an adversary that is killing more of our airmen than any enemy on the planet," Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said in a letter to commanders ordering the operational pause, according to ABC News.
He said that if the service failed to respond to this growing problem, it could see more than 150 suicides by the end of this year.
While Goldfein communicated with commanders, Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright filmed a message on resiliency for airmen.
.@cmsaf18 "Every leader of Airmen, supervisor, command team, friend and family member are looking for ways to keep our teammates from taking their lives. This is our issue - we have to do everything we can to stop suicide." pic.twitter.com/Uc7AJyo9it
"Our teammates are taking their own lives," he said in the video, adding that the service loses "more airmen to suicide than any other single enemy, even more than combat."
"Seventy-eight of our brothers and sisters have given up on life this year alone. Seventy-eight. That's 78 teammates. That's 78 wingmen. That's 78 spouses. That's 78 brothers and sisters and sons and daughters. Seventy-eight who couldn't find a single reason to keep going."
"We can't let this keep happening," Wright said, adding that there have been 28 more suicides so far this year than there were by this time last year.
"We have to get this thing turned around," he said.
The latest pause comes after last year's operational stand-down to focus on safety in the wake of mishaps and crashes, some of which cost the lives of US service members.