News | Dec. 17, 2020

Key spouses can be key

By Rossi D. Pedroza-Bertrand 940th Air Refueling Wing

In the past two years, the Air Force has had an alarming increase in its suicide rate. There are many resources available to Airmen in need, but one change that is being worked toward is involving families. 

Molly Noyes, 940 Air Refueling Wing director of psychological health, created a one-hour virtual training course for unit key spouses to equip them with necessary skills to further aide families to help their serving loved one.

The Air Force Key Spouse Program is an official Air Force Unit Family Readiness Program designed to increase, personal/family resiliency and establish a sense of Air Force community. Key Spouses are commander-appointed and serve as a vital resource to support Air Force families.

“The goal is suicide prevention,” said Noyes. “If the key spouses are trained and looking for signs that somebody may be at risk, they can step in and help out.”

Approximately 12 attended.

According to Air Force Reserve Command, families of service members play an important role in encouraging and promoting help seeking behaviors. Airmen report a greater willingness to talk to an intimate partner, friend, or family member about their problems than other helping agencies. 

AFRC also said it is also more difficult to conceal emotional distress from loved ones, making family members crucial to finding potential solutions to prevent suicide and other issues associated with interpersonal and self-directed violence.

Noyes said after the training, she had several 940 ARW members and their families visit her office requesting help.  She was able to link them with therapists in their local areas for continued care.

“This just isn’t about our Airmen; this is about trying to help everyone. If we can reach the members through their families, then we are moving in the right direction.”