ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE – Every day, Airmen move among a vast sea of camouflage, blending in with their peers as they work side-by-side supporting the mission. Many of them are thousands of miles away from home, where loneliness may kick in. Sometimes, they blend in so well that it is difficult to tell when one of them is hurting.
In order to raise awareness of Airmen’s wellbeing, May has been dedicated to educating service members about the importance of mental health.
“It is absolutely crucial that Airmen seek help when warning signs arise,” said Master Sgt. Christina Schwarztrauber, 36th Medical Operations Squadron mental health flight chief. “Mental health awareness should be on the forefront of everybody’s mind.”
There are behaviors that may indicate someone is struggling, such as becoming withdrawn, a sudden change in attitude and even alcohol abuse. While work can get busy, mental health experts say it is imperative for Airmen to keep an eye out for warning signs in their wingmen.
“People need to be aware of how their peers, subordinates, and fellow wingman are doing, checking in and knowing what is going on with them,” said Maj. Jeffrey Geddes, 36th MDOS mental health flight commander. “We need to create trusting relationships with these individuals so they will come to us if and when problems arise.”
For some Airmen it may be difficult to seek the help they need, either for themselves or others, yet the need for help is common. Nearly one in five adults, or 43 million Americans, have a diagnosable mental disorder, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. The mental health clinic offers help for people struggling with sleep-related difficulties, mental illnesses, stress and even counseling for married couples.
"People stigmatize the phrase 'mental health,'" Geddes said. "A lot of times people think that someone seeking mental health treatment is crazy, broken or there is something wrong with them. Everyone struggles at some point in their life, it's normal. Some people may need help dealing with their stressors, even if it's a one-time counseling session."
For Airmen who are seeking help, whether for themselves or for a friend, multiple agencies offer aid, including the mental health clinic, military family life counselors found at the Airman Family Readiness Center, chaplains, military one source and others.
“It’s important that people know we are there for them,” Schwarztrauber said. “This is what we do. We are here to help.”