MIDWEST CITY, Oklahoma - The United States Air Force said suicide is now the leading cause of death among Air Force Airmen. 

Chief of Staff General Dave Goldfein recently mandated that a “Resilience Tactical Pause” take place across the enterprise.

To address the problem, officials at Tinker Air Force Base recently held a mental wellness community dinner.

Local leaders and mental health professionals gathered to raise awareness and talk about local resources.

“It is hard to grasp, it is an Air Force problem,” said Col. Paul Filcek, Commander of the 72nd Air Base Wing. “We are owning it and we are after it, this is just the first step of many.”

Nationwide, the Air Force reports 78 lives were lost due to suicide so far in 2019. That number is 28 more than this time in 2018, when that number was only at 50.

Many mental health services are available on base including counselors, chapel services, as well as resources online and hotlines.

Local suicide rates at Tinker Air Force Base are highest among civilians.

“Our Tinker population is mostly comprised of civilians in our maintenance depot,” said Tinker Community Support Coordinator, Karen Blackwell. “That is our reason behind it, you have to kind of look at the ratios of the population.”

Connecting with one another in a digital age is among many priorities in a problem many wish could be fixed overnight.

“Until we remove the perception and stigma associated with seeking help, I don't think we will win and that is what our efforts are here tonight,” said Col. Filcek.

If you or someone you know is struggling, help is available. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 800-273-8255. Click here for a list of local resources.