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Good wingmen pay attention to mental health

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Look around the room and count out five people. Probably none of them stood out, but statistically, one of them experienced mental illness within the last year. According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness, that is about 44 million people.

To help people at Peterson Air Force Base be good wingmen and recognize emotional health issues to assist those suffering with them in getting help, the Installation Resilience Operations office is hosting Mental Health First Aid training June 10, from 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Mental Health First Aid is help offered to somebody developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis, according to Mental Health First Aid Colorado, the group presenting the training. The MHFAC instructors are both affiliated with the military, one a retired Air Force colonel and the other is a military spouse. Their backgrounds allow them to approach the class with an understanding of what service members deal with on a regular basis.

The goal of the training is to save lives when a person may be a danger to themselves or others, and to prevent mental health issues from becoming more serious. Helping with recovery and providing comfort and support are part of the program as well.

“The desired outcome is to reduce the stigma of seeking help for mental health and educate people on how to help others in a practical, non-clinical way,” said Beverly Price, Peterson Airman & Family Readiness Center community support coordinator. “The class is interactive and informative.”

The need for such training is real. The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates 18-22 veterans commit suicide each day. Mental illnesses, once they escalate, are a top reason for hospitalization and, according to the American Journal of Psychiatry, costs nearly $200 million in lost wages. Less than half of adults with mental illness receive any type of treatment, according to MHFAC.

A 2014 study of active duty military members in the Journal of the American Medical Association Psychiatry the three main mental health issues for service members are post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and traumatic brain injury.

Many people don’t know how to respond to someone who has a mental health challenge, and Price said this training can help with that.

“People are our most valuable resource and being a wingman encompasses taking care of yourself and taking care of others,” she said. “That extends beyond the uniform. A good wingman is a friend, someone you can rely on in tough times to help navigate unchartered territory.”

Being aware of resources – both military and those in the community – and how to best refer others helps empower a person to take quick action when faced with a mental health crisis, said Price.

“Mental Health First Aid is self-aid and buddy care for the mind,” she said.

This is the second year MHFA is offered at Peterson. The base was the first in the area to offer the class, Price said.

“I attended one in the community and thought it would be a good fit for our folks,” she said.

The session is open to anyone with base access, including those from Schriever Air Force Base, U.S. Air Force Academy and Fort Carson. Registration is necessary prior to the session and can be done through the MHFAC website at www.MHFACO.org.

More resources:
Peterson AFB Helpline: (719) 552-HELP
24/7 Lifeline: 1-800-273 TALK

Peterson SFB Schriever SFBCheyenne Mountain SFSThule AB New Boston SFS Kaena Point SFS Maui