ARNOLD AIR FORCE BASE, Tenn. --
Each May is recognized as Mental Health Awareness Month to raise awareness for mental health, as the name implies, but also to promote mental illness education and support.
Lee Smith, Arnold Engineering Development Complex Community Support coordinator, said the goals of Mental Health Awareness Month are especially important as the COVID-19 pandemic persists.
“After a year of isolation for many due to the pandemic, this month provides all of us a reminder that the mental health of our friends, family and, most importantly, ourselves deserve attention and understanding,” Smith said. “I think it is incumbent on us to show compassion and seek to help anyone in our sphere of influence to get the support they need to live a healthy and joyful life. Hopefully, this month can help start a conversation on mental health.”
Last spring, the AEDC Integrated Resilience and Violence Prevention Office provided the AEDC community information describing how stressful an event such as a global pandemic can be for friends and loved ones.
Stress and anxiety are among the mental health conditions listed by Mental Health America, the organization that established May as Mental Health Awareness Month in 1949. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in five adults in the U.S. experience a mental illness each year. One in 20 adults in the United States will experience what is defined as a serious mental illness in a given year.
“Some people may be vulnerable if they already have a health or generalized anxiety disorder,” Smith said. “In either case, feeling stressed can affect your immune system and increase the risk of getting ill in general. That is why it is important to take steps to manage your anxiety and how you react to stressful situations.”
Another objective of Mental Health Awareness Month is to reduce the stigma that Smith said unfortunately still exists with mental illness and seeking treatment for mental health. This stigma can be combatted by urging individuals negatively affected by the pandemic to be proactive in their journey to be healthier, Smith said.
“It is important for everyone to encourage their friends, co-workers and family to seek help when they show indications of early signs of distress,” he said.
Smith described the Air Force Employee Assistance Program (EAP) as an “awesome resource” for those looking for help. All Air Force civilian personnel to include non-appropriated funds, or NAF, employees; Guard and Reserve; and their family members may use the EAP at no charge to either the individual or family member.
“If you or someone you know is having difficulty managing stress, or if a household member is hyper-vigilant, obsessively reading about the crisis and worrying about the effects, remember you can call your EAP operator,” Smith said.
The EAP is available 24 hours per day, seven days a week. Call 866-580-9078 to speak with a clinical professional. All services are free and confidential. Air Force employees may also visit the EAP website at www.afpc.af.mil/eap for more information and to access Digital Cognitive Behavioral Therapy apps for anxiety, panic, phobias and depression.
Active duty Airmen and their families also have support available 24/7. Military OneSource counselors are available at no cost and offer short-term, confidential, non-medical counseling services for a wide range of issues including marital conflicts, anger management, stress management and coping with separation loss and deployments. More information on Military OneSource is available at https://www.militaryonesource.mil/ or by calling 800-342-9647.
A number of resources focused on well-being are available to AEDC Airmen and their families:
Similar resources are available 24/7 to employees of contractors at Arnold AFB:
Employees of other contractors or those with questions about well-being resources may contact their employer’s human resources department.
Smith added his priority and focus is on ensuring all AEDC military and civilian Airmen and their families have access to the tools and resources needed to thrive. If you or someone you know would like Smith’s assistance, he can be reached in his office at 931-454-5494 or via cell at 931-581-6592.
Smith also shared these additional resources:
- Veterans/Military Crisis Line
The purpose of the Veterans/Military Crisis Line is to connect service members, their families and their friends to a qualified Department of Defense responder in a time of crisis. The VCL/MCL can be reached by phone at 1-800-273-8255, by text at 838255 or via online chat.
- Department of the Air Force Family Vector (DAF Family Vector)
The DAF Family Vector is part of the Exceptional Family Member Program offered by the Airman and Family Readiness Center. The website provides resources for service members and their families who need medical information, special education, moving assistance or other assets that may not be available at their current or projected assignment location.
- Family Advocacy Program (FAP)
The Family Advocacy Program (FAP) is dedicated to domestic and Child abuse prevention, education, prompt reporting, investigation, intervention and treatment. The Air Force provides a variety of services to Airmen, Guardians and their families to enhance their relationship skills and improve their quality of life.
A public awareness campaign by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) that provides personal testimonials and resources to help Veterans discover ways to improve their lives.
Dedicated to promoting mental health, preventing mental and substance use conditions and achieving victory over mental illnesses and addictions through advocacy, education, research and service.
- National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
The mission of NIMH is to transform the understanding and treatment of mental illnesses through basic and clinical research, paving the way for prevention, recovery, and cure.
- SAVE: Suicide Awareness Voices of Education
Their mission is to prevent suicide through public awareness and education, reduce stigma and serve as a resource to those touched by suicide.
- Psychological Health Center of Excellence (PHCoE)
Provides psychological health information and connects service members/families with resources.
Provides highly personal comfort, hope, and support to every family experiencing the death of a son or a daughter, a brother or a sister, or a grandchild, and helps others better assist the grieving family
- The Dougy Center for Grieving Children & Families
Provides support in a safe place where children, teens, young adults, and their families grieving a death can share their experiences. Provides support and training locally, nationally, and internationally to individuals and organizations seeking to assist children in grief.
- National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
NAMI, is dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness. Advocates for access to services, treatment, supports and research and is steadfast in its commitment to raising awareness and building a community of hope for all of those in need.
A mailing list provides that provides a supportive environment for parents whose children have died of suicide. It is intended to provide a place where parents can discuss the lives and deaths of their children with other parents whose children have died by suicide.
Share stories of surviving sibling suicide and continue supporting the need for open dialog and community amongst those affected by the loss of a sibling.
- Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS)
TAPS provides immediate and long-term emotional help, hope, and healing to all who are grieving the death of a loved one in military service to America. TAPS meets its mission by providing peer-based emotional support, grief and trauma resources, casework assistance, and connections to community-based care.
- Exceptional Family Member Program
The Exceptional Family Member Program is designed to support military family members with special needs.