Air Force Staff Sgt. Angela Pope Speaks Out
Against Suicide in the Military
by Kevin Caruso
"I was 15, and my best friend in the entire world died -- my dad," said Air Force Staff Sgt. Angela Pope. "I didn't understand why he had been taken from me. I didn't understand why I had to face such pain. All I could think about was being with him again, and saying the things I never got the chance to say -- I decided I was going to kill myself so I could be with him again."
What Angela felt that made her want die by suicide was this: intense emotional pain.
People die by suicide because they want to end their pain.
But fortunately for Angela, she had a very loving and supportive mother who talked her out of dying by suicide.
And although losing her father was very difficult, she was able to move on with her life.
A few years later, shortly after joining the Air Force, Angela married the man of her dreams -- only to see her dreams quickly turn into nightmares, as her husband began to severely abuse her. She divorced him, and then fell into a deep depression.
Angela was devastated. She was unable to concentrate, and lost 20 pounds in two weeks.
She also found herself in serious financial trouble because the irresponsible, abusive, cowardly loser that she divorced had run up steep debts and left them in her name.
Angela was overwhelmed.
Not only was she depressed, but her self-confidence and self-esteem were at rock bottom.
And she felt like she was a burden to the Air Force, her friends, and her family.
She wanted to die by suicide.
But, instead, she reached out for help.
She asked for help from her supervisor, made an appointment with a doctor, spoke with a chaplain, and got into therapy.
She recovered from her depression, returned to excellent physical health, and resumed being an important, productive member of the U.S. Air Force.
Angela learned that when you are suicidal, you must reach out for help. She did the right thing. She did not let the stigma associated with depression stop her from getting the help that she needed.
But not everyone in the military reaches out for help when they need it. And Angela knows all to well about what can happen when people in the military stay silent when they are depressed or suicidal.
"A young Airman who lived down the hallway from me in the dorm hanged himself," she said. "[And] my second brush with suicide happened recently. Again, it was a young Airman, new to the military and to the base. I hadn't met him, but we lived in the same apartment complex. A few weeks ago, he decided to take his own life."
Most probably, both Airmen were suffering from depression, and did not reach out for help.
And untreated depression is the number one cause for suicide.
Military personnel can be very hesitant to ask for help because they do not want to be seen as weak. But depression is not a weakness -- it is an illness, just like cancer and diabetes are illnesses.
If you are in the military and are depressed or suicidal, please reach out for help.
Staff Sgt. Angela Pope has some excellent advice for all military personnel to follow when they are depressed or suicidal: "The rough times will pass. But please don't feel like you have to tackle them by yourself. Call a friend, your supervisor, your first sergeant, a chaplain.Or if you don't want to share your feeling with them, call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-SUICIDE. Take it from someone who's been there, suicide isn't the answer."
Staff Sgt. Pope's very wise and important advice should be followed by everyone in the military -- all of the time.
If you or someone you know is suicidal, please go to the Home Page of this website for immediate help.
I love you.