By Tech. Sgt. Wes Wright
50th Space Wing Public Affairs
SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — Airmen feeling down, depressed or just needing someone to listen have 24/7 access to base resources by calling 719-567-HELP.
The hotline is a one-stop shop for 10 different agencies including the National Suicide Prevention Helpline, Mental Health, Military and Family Life Counselor and more.
“It is a single point of contact for all important numbers, even after hours options in case of an emergency,” said Capt. Louis Pagano, 21st Medical Squadron mental health element chief. “It’s hard, especially in the moment, to remember right away several different phone numbers. This number makes it convenient.”
According to Ken Robinson, 50th Space Wing Specialist for the Primary Prevention of Violence, it’s important Airmen know they have 24/7 access to care.
“During normal hours it’s easier to figure out where to call or who to turn to, but what about in the middle of the night or on a weekend? The nice thing is you can call this number at any time, to include normal hours and someone will help you with whatever your concern may be.”
Pagano advised all Airmen do the little things to help keep themselves mentally healthy.
“It’s not just about eating right, sleeping well and exercising,” he said. “It’s also about making good decisions and surrounding yourself with people that care for you. Your social support system is just as important. A healthy balance of each area in your life will help you stay on the right track.”
Robinson pointed to Comprehensive Airmen Fitness and the pillars of wellness as areas Airmen must maintain to stay healthy.
“While you have access to 24/7 care it’s important you take care of yourself so hopefully you don’t need it,” he said. “All of the helping agencies you can reach at that number directly impact CAF one way or another. The Airman and Family Readiness Centers offers many classes aimed at helping build resilience and bolster our pillars of wellness.”
Pagano said in managing one’s mental health, it’s important to know the difference between sadness and depression.
“Being sad is a temporary response to an event which you know will get better,” he said. “Sadness is often normal and adaptive. Being depressed is a longer-term maladaptive collection of symptoms lasting several weeks or months often accompanied by depressed mood, hopelessness, changes in appetite and energy level. If you see no end to the sadness, please reach out and talk to someone.”
As a human relationships specialist, Robinson said reaching out is the most important thing someone can do when feeling down.
“After a child is born, what is one of the first physical things they attempt to do,” he asked. “They reach out. That never really changes in us. Isolation is not good, we are simply not designed for it. We need communication and companionship.”
Pagano said Airmen shouldn’t wait until it’s an emergency to talk to someone.
“Often times we just need someone to talk to or to give us advice about what’s going on in our lives,” he said. “Mental health is a great place to start, but if you’re uncertain, you can start with friends or family. However, if you are having thoughts of harming yourself or ending your life, you should call 911 or the mental health clinic.”
While some Airmen may think reporting to mental health might impact their career, Pagano indicated not reporting can often be more detrimental.
“Your career may only be impacted if you ignore your issues and allow them to interfere with your ability to do your job or take care of yourself,” he said. “Even then, most people recover from mental health concerns with the right interventions. You can’t fully meet the mission if you’re not capable of taking care of yourself. So reach out, take advantage of the tools you have.”
According to Robinson, connecting with others is a key preventative tool for mental resiliency.
“Resiliency has multiple dimensions,” he said. “There’s the side where you need to do things for you, but the other side is connection and attachment. If you’re starting to feel down, tell somebody. Your wingman is a good starting place.”
Robinson had a final thought to leave with Airmen who may be feeling down.
“Never feel silly or weak for asking for help,” he said. “We are all stronger when we reach out.”