Tuesday, December 18, 2012

'Tis the season to be there for your wingman

by Airman 1st Class Kia Atkins
35th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

12/18/2012 - MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- As the holiday season hits full swing, some Airmen might not be filled with the expected holiday cheer that comes with a season of celebrations. The holiday blues can affect anyone and knowing the signs and being a good wingman could potentially save someone's life.

"A common warning sign that people may notice in their close friends is when there is a sudden and unusual change of behavior," said Airman 1st Class Brixon Tumaneng, 35th Medical Operations Squadron mental health technician. "So when you start to notice these subtle changes, you may want to ask them how they are doing."

According to the 35th Medical Group Mental Health Clinic, the top factors associated with suicide in the Air Force are relationship problems, financial problems, criminal acts, a history of alcohol abuse, and military legal problems. Service members may be even more susceptible to those stressors during the holiday season because they may feel secluded from their friends and family which could trigger feelings of loneliness, hopelessness and even suicidal thoughts.

Understanding the signs of distress in yourself and others will help you know when to seek help.

The signs that might indicate someone needs help include feelings of hopelessness, depression, anxiety, agitated behavior, being more angry or irritable than usual, isolating oneself and withdrawing from friends, family and co-workers, having no appetite or eating more than normal, having difficulty sleeping or spending too much time in bed, feeling tired all the time, losing interest in work and other normal activities, talking about death or suicide and almost any unusual or abrupt change in behavior.

"The first thing we want to do when our wingman is depressed is talk to them and find out what is going on, because if we just use our judgment and assume things we don't know exactly what is going on," said Tumaneng. "After that, you could offer them help and point them to resources that we have on base."

Where you or your wingmen would like to go for help is completely up to personal preference, but readily available resources are friends, someone in your chain of command, chaplains, the Airmen and Family Readiness Center, the Mental Health Clinic, the Family Advocacy Program and the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment Program.

Tumaneng also said that if you feel like your wingman is just not having a good day, they may just need someone hang out with them. You know, to just be there for them.

"When you ask your fellow Airmen their plans and involve them in yours, it creates a world of difference," said Airman 1st Class Aubrey George, 35th Medical Support Squadron outpatient records technician. "Sometimes we find ourselves hesitant to ask or to involve other Airman in our plans, and we may be hesitant to involve ourselves when asked, but creating those opportunities creates a strong Air Force family and it makes the holidays more enjoyable when we're this far from home."

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