Air Force Orders Stand-Down to Combat Rising Number of Suicides

After an alarming increase in suicide rates in the Air Force in 2019, Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein has ordered all wings to stand down for a day and focus on resiliency and suicide prevention.

In a video posted online Thursday, Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth Wright said 78 airmen have taken their own lives so far in 2019. That’s 28 more than had died by suicideat the same point in 2018, Wright said, and if the trend continues, the Air Force could lose 150 to 160 airmen that way this year.

“Our teammates are taking their own lives,” Wright said in the video. “We lose more airmen to suicide than any other single enemy — even more than combat. 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.”

In a letter sent to all commanders Thursday morning, Goldfein said wings have until Sept. 15 to hold their “resilience tactical pause,” during which they will set aside a full day of their choosing to figure out what needs to be done.

In the video, Wright said the pause will be a “break in the daily grind” so units can focus on airmen and their well-being. It won’t be a “one-day effort to check a box,” Wright said, but will begin a longer-term dialogue between airmen, command teams, agencies dedicated to helping airmen and families, and the rest of the Air Force.

“We can’t let this keep happening,” Wright said. “This is our problem, and we have to dedicate ourselves every single day to building strong and healthy airmen, supporting and engaging teams, and cultures of trust and respect to help keep these airmen hopeful, to give them an opportunity to thrive in this great Air Force. … We have to get this thing turned around.”