1. News
  2. /
  3. Military

MacDill will pause for a day to address rising number of suicides in the Air Force

An estimated 78 airmen nationwide have taken their lives this year, prompting leaders to boost prevention efforts
MacDill Air Force Base will observe a full-day, "resilience tactical pause'' Friday to address a growing number of suicides in the Air Force. Airmen will participate in team-building activities and small-group discussions on mental health. This is happening at military bases across the U.S. [Times files].
Published Sep. 12

TAMPA — The work day at MacDill Air Force Base will become much more personal Friday when members of the 6th Air Mobility Wing observe a full-day "pause'' to address the growing number of airmen dying by suicide.

Already this year, at least 78 airmen nationwide have taken their own lives. That’s up by more than 50 percent compared to the same period in 2018, and officials fear the total could grow to 150 or more by year’s end.

“We lose more airmen to suicide than any other single enemy — even more than combat,” Kaleth Wright, the Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force, said earlier this year.

In an effort to promote suicide prevention resources on base, top Air Force brass directed wing commanders across the U.S. to take a “resilience tactical pause” day before Sept. 15. Wings were provided resources for the day but could determine for themselves how to run things.

“The Resiliency Tactical Pause is not a one and done effort,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said in a statement. “We must take the time to listen, connect and address the issues that are shifting our teammates’ outlook from hopeful to hopeless.”

At MacDill’s pause on Friday, airmen will participate in team-building activities and be asked to open up about stressors and their mental health needs, said Leigh McCall, a member of the base’s Integrated Resiliency Office.

They will also break into small group discussions focusing on life’s purpose and meaning as well as what constitutes mental fitness. One of the biggest goals of the pause is to collect feedback that will help the Air Force personalize resources on and off base as well as future wellness events.

“One suicide for us is too many,” McCall said.

In 2017, the rate of suicides within the Air Force was estimated to be 19.3 per 100,000 population, according to a Department of Defense report. Service members who take their own lives are most often white, between the ages of 20 and 24, of low rank and with less than a college education, the report says.

RELATED: Howard Altman: Families disgusted at VA failure to spend suicide-prevention money

Stressors that are often present in suicide cases in all branches of the military include family issues, legal or administrative problems and abuse.

Airmen at MacDill have access to military and family life counselors, a chaplain, a military crisis line and the Resiliency Office. The base partners with the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay to offer additional resources.

RELATED: Low-cost military mental health clinic opens in Tampa

The 927th Air Refueling Wing, a reserve wing which also operates out of MacDill, addressed suicide prevention last weekend. The Department of Defense found in 2017 that the rate of suicide among reserve components across the military was higher than among active-duty members — 25.7 per 100,000 population.

During the 927th’s commander call, Vice Commander Col. Andrew Stephan shared his past personal struggles, opening up about the help he sought to overcome them. He also called on members to fill out anonymous index cards detailing the stressors they face to better tailor meetings planned for the rest of the year.

NEED HELP: If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, reach out to the 24–hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1–800–273–8255; contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741; or chat with someone online at The Crisis Center of Tampa Bay can be reached by dialing 2-1-1 or by visiting Contact the Military Crisis Line at 800-273-8255, then press 1, or access online chat by texting 838255.


  1. By the time Gunnery Sgt. John Guglielmino died Thursday at age 69, more than 200 service men and women had made the trip to Curahealth Jacksonville to salute him one last time. Facebook
    Katie Boccanelli was hoping maybe a handful of local servicemen/women might be in a position to respond.
  2. Honor guard soldiers salute as the urn containing the ashes of Maj. Albert L. Mitchell, U.S. Army (Retired) is seen during a ceremony Friday, Oct. 11, 2019 in St. Petersburg. CHRIS URSO  |  Times
    The ashes were found in a St. Petersburg attic. Nine years after his death, a soldier is buried with honors at Bay Pines National Cemetery.
  3. Patriot Guard Riders Floyd Anderson (right of center), from Riverview, and (right) Henry Hyde, from Fort Myers, embrace after the funeral for Edward K. Pearson on October 1 at the Sarasota National Cemetery in Sarasota.  Mr. Pearson was not believed to have left any family behind, so the public was invited to attend. MONICA HERNDON  |  Times
    Edward Pearson Sr. had two sons. Their father walked out on them when they were teens. Years later, they were told he was dead.
  4. (left to right) Trevor Yarborough, 17, Kadie Weston, 17, and Connor Gadson-Yarbrough, 18, supervise their NJROTC classmates while preparing for the Iron Bear Challenge at Robinson High School in Tampa. MONICA HERNDON  |  Times
    Many of America’s future soldiers are too young to have a personal connection to the terror attacks or the war in Afghanistan that followed.
  5. Edward K. Pearson's remains are carried in for his funeral on October 1, 2019 at the Sarasota National Cemetery in Sarasota, Florida.  Mr. Pearson did not leave any family behind, so the public was invited to attend. MONICA HERNDON  |  Times
    An estimated 1,500 people showed up at the ceremony held for Edward K. Pearson.
  6. The KC-135s are the main aircraft for the 6th Air Mobility Wing soon to be redesignated as the 6th Air Refueling Wing. MONICA HERNDON  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The 6th Air Mobility Wing celebrates its 100th anniversary while getting a redesignation
  7. A F/A-18A Hornet, assigned to the U.S. Navy flight demonstration team the “Blue Angels,” makes a pass past the crowd at the 2004 Joint Service Open House. Courtesy of Mate 2nd Class Daniel J. McLain
    MacDill Air Force Base will host Navy aircraft for three weeks beginning Oct. 1
  8. Army veteran Edward K. Pearson died in Naples with no living relatives. A social media campaign that swept the country is expected to bring crowds to his interment at a Sarasota military cemetery. Photo from Patricia Thrasher's Facebook
    The national political community is rallying around the story of Edward K. Pearson.
  9. Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday. Macguire was heading up a charity helping wounded warriors when he was tapped last year to join the intelligence community in Washington. PABLO MARTINEZ MONSIVAIS  |  AP
    The retired vice admiral and Navy SEAL helped raise millions for wounded warriors as leader of a Tampa-based foundation.
  10. A homeless Vietnam War veteran in Clearwater answers questions for a Pinellas County homeless survey. A shortage of affordable housing is considered a major cause of homelessness among vets in the Tampa Bay area. [Times files]
    Local agency leaders called on members of Congress to increase national affordable housing options as a solution to veteran homelessness