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NEWS | Sept. 30, 2022

Suicide Prevention: It starts with communication

By Airman 1st Class Anna Smith Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling

Several years after attempting to take his own life, Kirt Davis has made it his mission to reach out to others and let them know that their lives matter.

Suicide, its causes, awareness regarding it and prevention of it, are all observed and discussed during National Suicide Awareness and Prevention Month every September.
In recent years, society has become more receptive to conversations about suicide. However, a stigma remains with the question of: how do we overcome it?

Suicidal thoughts and actions can plague anyone regardless of race, age, gender or social status. Davis is one JBAB teammate who is no stranger to that fact.

“September 11th happened while I was on my first deployment in the Navy,” said Davis, 11th Wing Violence Prevention Integrator and Suicide Prevention Program manager at the Pentagon. “I’ve been to places and seen things I didn’t think I ever would.”

Davis came back from his deployment with post-traumatic stress disorder.  

“Even at that time, PTSD and suicidal thoughts weren’t something taken very seriously,” said Davis. “During that time, I attempted suicide three times.”

All three of these suicide attempts came early on in Davis’ Navy career, which lasted 8 years. He sought help before his third attempt.

“I did everything you get told to do. I told people I was having thoughts of hurting myself,” said Davis. “I was extremely vulnerable and was told to suck it up.”

After communicating his pain and hurt, and receiving the opposite of what he expected, he gave humanity a week to show him that good still existed, said Davis.

“I told myself, if no one asks me how I’m doing by Sunday, I am going to kill myself,” said Davis.

On a ship of more than 5,000 people, he thought that there would be at least one person to ask him how he’s doing. Until the next Sunday came around, and no one had, said Davis.

“I came to my room at the end of my shift, put a gun to my head and pulled the trigger,” said Davis. “But nothing came out.”

Someone might think of this as a sign or divine intervention, but to him, it felt like another sign that he couldn’t do anything right, said Davis.

“I pointed the gun to the wall and fired, and a bullet came out. I moved to put the gun to my head, but threw it on the ground,” he said, “and I just screamed at the top of my lungs.”

A shipmate came running into Davis’ room. Concerned, he asked Davis how he was doing and if everything okay. The care and sincerity his shipmate showed him was exactly what he needed and was looking for all that time, said Davis.

The shipmate stayed with Davis for several hours and sat with him in silence. Eventually, the shipmate started talking. Instead of asking Davis what happened, he began sharing his own story about the things he’s been through, said Davis.

“I asked him why he didn’t get help,” said Davis. “He asked me, ‘Well, why didn’t you?’ And it really comes down to trusting the people behind the resources that leadership tell you to utilize in these situations.”

After sharing experiences with each other, he realized that vulnerability encourages vulnerability, said Davis.

“If you’re hurting, share the hurt,” said Davis. “If you keep it to yourself, you aren’t doing anybody any good.”

Now, years later, Davis is the Violence Prevention Integrator for JBAB, where his job and passion are assisting people in getting the help they need.

The main responsibilities for the VPI are to create a primary prevention program for interpersonal and self-directed violence, including suicide, child abuse, sexual assault, sexual harassment and domestic violence.

“I push presence, caring and talking about suicide as the real ways to prevent suicide,” said Davis. “Anyone can do the mandatory yearly training, but it comes down to caring about the person to your left and right. Take the time to ask people how they are doing.”

To kick off Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month, Davis organized an event for those who work, live and visit JBAB. Many attended the event on Aug. 31 that encouraged learning, sharing and growing as a community to fight against and prevent suicide, including 11th Wing and JBAB commander, U.S. Air Force Col. Cat Logan.

“We are here for each other all of the time,” said Logan. “If you are going through something, there is someone available to help you. There are people here that care about you. You matter so much.”

No matter what you are going through, you never have to go through it alone. National resources include the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline that can be reached via call or text by dialing 988. For veterans looking for more specialized assistance, press one after dialing 988.

Local JBAB resources include the Mental Health clinic that can be reached at 202-767-0611. Another important and confidential resource is the Chaplain Corps. The phone number to the JBAB Chapel is 202-284-3075. If you need crisis assistance after hours, contact the Joint Base Andrews Base Operator at 301-981-1110 and ask to be connected with the on-call Chaplain.

“If I could give my past self any piece of advice, it would be to share the hurt,” said Davis. “Someone around you knows how you feel. They might feel it too. Don’t walk through the darkness of this world alone.”