From agony to advocacy

  • Published
  • By Story by Airman 1st Class Makensie Cooper

“I kept thinking what else I could have done, been a better friend, talked more often, saw the signs,” said Senior Airman Shea Abraham, Joint Typhoon Warning Center weather journeyman.

In midst of a global pandemic, intense job training, and a deployment, Abraham lost four friends to suicide.

“When my first friend committed suicide, I went through every single stage of grief,” said Abraham. “I was starting to be so scared of going out with my friends because I was so afraid to lose them.’’

Abraham lost four friends within a span of 17 months. All four friends served in the military, three in the Air Force, and one in the Navy.

The turning point for Abraham occurred after losing her third friend. While sobbing during an anxiety attack, her roommate came and held her hand, and told her it would be okay and things would get better.

“Through the experience that I have gone through with my friends, I have learned that it is okay to not be okay,” said Abraham. “You learn how to live with it, and how to grow with it, and it eventually gets better and it all starts with reaching out and talking to someone.”

Once Abraham started reaching out and talking about what she went through, it became easier. Abraham wanted to do more and help others, so she decided to become an advocate for suicide prevention.

Abraham met with Master Sgt. Brittney Romero, 15th Wing Violence Prevention Integration senior enlisted leader, looking for ideas on how to spot the signs, start the hard conversations, and make a difference.

“That conversation is really hard, and starting that conversation and showing that yes, that person truly matters, and having that dedicated time and attention to that person who needs a little bit of love starts the healing process,” said Romero.

Romero explained that having difficult conversations about suicide shows others that you care about them and what they are going through is heard and validated.

“When people are going through hard things and feeling down, it becomes hard for them to advocate for themselves. There is sometimes so much pressure to be okay when they are not,” said Romero. “Reaching out to somebody and showing that genuine interest in caring for them is really important.”

Abraham hopes to use her training to encourage others to reach out to each other, start the hard conversations, and to help start healing.

“I don't tell people my story so they feel bad for me, I tell people so they know they are not alone with this,” said Abraham.

If you or someone you know needs support, use these resources:

+15th Wing Violence Prevention Office: 808-449-1603
+Military OneSource: 800-342-9647
+15th Medical Group Mental Health: 808-448-6377
+Veterans Crisis Line: 800-273-8255
+Women Veterans Hotline: 855-829-6636
+Vet Center Call Center: 877-WAR-VETS (927-8387)