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Kirtland officials: Suicide prevention services are available on base

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

If an airman is struggling with suicidal thoughts, resources are available on Kirtland Air Force Base to help, says Maj. Benjamin Carter, a clinical psychologist.

Carter said airmen can come in and see a psychologist in the primary care center on base within a week.

“Usually, it’s the same day or the next day when there is an opening,” he said. “At the primary care behavioral health clinic, they can decide, ‘Is this something that we can easily manage on a brief basis, four sessions or less … or is this something that needs more intensive mental health care?’ ”

If they need more intensive care, Carter said, they will be referred to the mental health clinic, at which point they sit down with a social worker or a psychologist and go through their history and develop a personalized treatment plan.

“If we’re talking about something where there is a safety concern where they are considering hurting themselves or other people, then part of that treatment plan is going to involve putting a team around them,” he said. “We will identify all of the specific risk factors that are leading them to feel hopeless.”

Edith Wegner, the violence prevention integrator at Kirtland, said airmen who are struggling with suicidal thoughts and other mental health issues can go to military and family life counselors on base.

“They are often very accessible because they can meet you outside the office,” she said. “They can meet you at the dorm or at the park. And they can do therapeutic services. There’s no charge. Just call them or walk into where they are located at. There are also chaplains, who have full confidentiality. They have a team of fully dedicated folks. If you want to be spiritually based, you can. They are located at the chapel.”

She also said an employee assistance program for the civilian workforce is available, and employees can set up appointments and see counselors as well.

She and Carter said Kirtland also works with the New Mexico Veterans Affairs Health Care System for services for airmen.

In addition to walk-in services provided on base, Wegner said, there are services available after hours. One of them is National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255. Active duty soldiers and veterans will reach the Veterans Crisis Line by pressing 1.

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