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A Message to the Strong

(U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Staff Sgt. J.D. Strong II)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Elijah Chevalier, 377th Air Base Wing, photojournalist pretends to be depressed for a photo at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., July 16. HQ RIO members are encouraged to ask for help if feeling stressed, depressed or anxious. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Staff Sgt. J.D. Strong II)

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colorado --

Help:

To make something more pleasant or easier to deal with; to make less severe.

Help is one of the simplest words to describe or define. Why isn’t it just as easy to say? We have come to know it as a cry or last ditch effort to get us out of a life or death situation.

Imagine you are in the stands at a sporting event and your friend or family member seated next to you clutches their chest and falls over. What one word would you yell out to get the attention you need?

You have a flat tire late at night with no service stations within walking distance. You come upon a home with lights on—what are you going to ask for?

A traffic accident -- something out of reach on a shelf -- you can’t find a specific item in a store. What are you going to do?

We have become accustomed to asking for what we need when it comes to ordinary tasks or visible wounds. It could be because there is no hiding it; everyone can plainly see the need is there. Or, it could be that we know others have these same needs. It’s unfortunate that we have convinced ourselves that the internal conflicts we face have to be left in the dark. The more we talk about it, the more we realize we’re not the only ones.

So, if you don’t know by now, allow me to express it clearly: MANY professional, healthy, mentally strong individuals feel some form of depression and/or anxiety at one time or another. It may be weekly, triggered by a particular person or environment—but the important thing to realize is that it happens to us all. We would not be human if certain things didn’t hurt or upset us. We just process it differently. Everyone doesn’t have to know your most intimate struggles, but every now and then—for your own good—get it off your chest. Your physical health and peace of mind depend on it.

We work hard, enjoy some days and complain on others. But our ultimate goal is success and happiness. We want the next day be better than today; finances, relationships, career, education, retirement, etc. Since we don’t know what the future holds, make a decision to enjoy your life on your way to those goals.

You don’t wait until your car runs completely out of gas to re-fuel. Have that same sense of responsibility to yourself. Help is one of the good four letter words—know when to use it!

So, where can you find what you need? Glad you asked! The resources below are either free or income-based and you do not have to be in status or have health insurance to access them.

Redcross.org: Go to menu—get help—military families (also download the Red Cross Hero Care App). All service members, veterans, and military family members are welcome.

Realwarriors.net: Quick reads on multiple “real life” topics. This site also has links for emergency/24 hour assistance.

Samhsa.gov: A federal agency focused on assisting individuals and families finding substance abuse and mental health services. Assistance may be free or income-based.

Military One Source: (800) 342-9647 (you will be asked to provide your SSN—this is normal and they do so do verify you are a service member). Remember, we can receive 12 free counseling sessions per event/issue per year. Efforts are made to find a counselor in your area so if you do not live near a military base it’s not an issue. You can attend alone or as a family!

Call a Chaplain: You can ask Military One Source for a chaplain’s number or you can simply call the installation of your choice. As with all of the other options, you do NOT have to be in status to make this call. Chaplains offer 100% confidentially, so whatever you discuss stays between the two of you (consider asking for a zoom meeting if you prefer to speak “face to face”).

Bottom line—do what works best for you. There are things you can do on your own, such as volunteering at a food bank—once a week or even once a month. You’d be surprised how focusing your energy on someone else makes our own problems seem less devastating.

Spend a little time with a pet (ask a friend or neighbor if -you can “pet sit” for an hour if you don’t have your own).

My personal favorite—close your laptop and read a book or re-watch your favorite movie. Once that “blue screen headache” sets in, listen to your body! Give yourself a mental break and relax—even if just for a few minutes. You are a human being and you need time to regather your thoughts and energy in order to produce quality work. Forcing yourself past that wall can lead to a less patient, more irritable, less productive you.

With that being said, I urge you to be proactive in self-care. I know, I know… other people are depending on you. All the more reason for you to stay healthy—you have to be at your best if you want to be of any good to others.

If you’ve never reached out before, it can be a daunting task; but you’ve conquered bigger. OTS, BMT, job loss/new jobs, raising children, the list goes on. You’ve got this.

Click the button or dial the number. You are strong enough.