Mental health awareness

MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- Due to the current wartime situation, which increases deployments, stress and general hardships for most military personnel, Gunfighters are encouraged to evaluate the importance of strong mental health.

The sensitive nature of mental health issues has been known to result in a lack of diagnosis, and if left untreated these issues can be detrimental to the Air Force's most valuable asset, the Airmen.

"The stigma associated with mental health often prevents service members from seeking help," said Katie Fitzgerald, Military Pathways marketing coordinator. "Not all wounds are physical. Depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and related health issues can't be seen on an x-ray, but they are just as painful as a physical illness."

The MHAFB mental health flight provides multiple outlets for Gunfighters struggling to find help with different problems.

"We are here for our Gunfighters in many ways," said Master Sgt. Veronica Rowlett, mental health flight chief. "We have individual counseling, group counseling and classes on a myriad of topics covering general mental health issues, substance related problems, domestic violence and parenting."

For a variety of reasons, questionable mental stability in troops can be damaging to mission success.

"Mental health is very important to the military populace," said Rowlett. "You can be perfectly trained and prepared to deploy but if you are anxious or depressed, you won't be at your best, and if you aren't at your best, the mission is impacted. The mental health flight is here to assist in breaking this vicious cycle."

One of the most common mental health issues in society today is depression.

"Just like any other disease, there are certain risk factors that can lead to depression," said Dr. Douglas G. Jacobs, president of screening for Mental Health, a non-profit organization committed to promoting the improvement of mental health. "It's important to learn the signs and symptoms of depression, such as changes in appetite, loss of energy or loss of interest in your usual activities, as well as the necessary steps you can take to improve your health."

Gunfighters are continuously asked to display, "Service Before Self" and lookout for fellow wingmen.

"We all can encourage good mental health by talking to each other, encouraging positive coping skills and helping one another recognize if a fellow wingman is having mental or emotional health issues and may need help," said Rowlett. "Asking for help is not a sign of weakness but one of strength."

For more information and a free screening, visit www.MindBodyStrength.org.