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Speaking up and speaking out

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Stress, it’s an everyday part of life. Sometimes it can be a good thing that drives a person to greatness, but sometimes it turns negative. Stress can be a constant presence that, if left unchecked, has the potential to become debilitating and lead to anxiety, depression or even suicide.

The Air Force is full of helping agencies to provide assistance to those who might be feeling overwhelmed. The Chapel and Mental Health are well known agencies, but not everyone is comfortable using them. Recognizing this, members of Peterson are working to develop a program to help those struggling find their voice.

Speak Up is an initiative developed by Senior Airmen Sabra Waggoner and Nicholas Cavanaugh to provide an open forum for peers to simply come together and talk.

“We want to get the word out to Airmen who are struggling that there is a safe place,” said Beverly Price, 21st Space Wing installation resilience operations community support coordinator. “A place to come and talk about what’s bothering them and get help to find resources.”

With an overall goal of reducing or eliminating the stigma of speaking out about mental issues, the emphasis is for Airmen to speak up about what assistance they may need and have the resources there to help them, said Price.

Constant stress and its resulting issues can be a difficult subject for people to talk about, despite its common occurrence. It’s a reaction to any stimulus that may disturb the physical or mental equilibrium and effects each person uniquely.

“Everyone deals with different stressors,” said Price. “It’s very intimate, what stresses you wouldn’t necessarily stress me and vice versa. If you’re under immense stress, your mind sometimes may not be able to focus on the obvious, we want to encourage people to get help before they reach crisis mode. ”

The Speak Up meeting is about asking for help if it’s needed. It provides people a place to turn to that’s not in the chain of command, but is comprised of other Airmen and objective peers. It’s informal and a relaxed environment, right down to attendees wearing civilian clothes if that is more comfortable.

“You don’t need to state rank just ‘Hi my name is so and so and this is my story,’” said Price. Everyone with base access is invited to attend the monthly meetings. Come if you need help or even if you just want to help. All are welcome to share their experiences and say what might have helped them.”

Though the program is in its infancy, the validity of its presence is proven each month as the group slowly gets bigger and the word gets out.

Other resources are:
719 552-HELP - puts people in touch with on and off-base helping agencies
The National Suicide Prevention lifeline is 24/7 and open to everyone, 1-800-273-TALK

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