JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas –
More than 1,220 Airmen and families attended the 960th Cyberspace Wing’s 2nd annual Mental Health & Resiliency Fair in-person and virtually at the Bob Hope Performing Arts Center at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland May 14.
The event featured special guest Kevin Hines, author, speaker and documentary filmmaker, who attempted suicide by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California, in September 2000. He was one of only 36 people to survive the fall from the bridge, and the only person to regain full physical mobility following the attempt.
Col. Richard Erredge, 960th CW commander, provided opening remarks at the fair, where he shared a message from Deputy Secretary of Defense Dr. Kathleen H. Hicks, in which she said mental health has the same importance as physical health.
He also addressed the myth that mental health assistance can impact a person’s security clearance.
“Seeking professional care for mental health concerns will not jeopardize your security clearance,” Erredge said. “The fact is, in this wing, we have not revoked or suspended any security clearances by people who have sought help.”
He said the event was an opportunity to learn about available resources and where to seek help when needed.
The fair host and coordinator, Frances Martinez, 960th CW director of psychological health, talked about the importance of the event and why the wing conducts an annual resiliency event.
“Keeping mental health on the forefront of our service members’ minds is critical to ensure Airmen are healthy and mission ready,” Martinez said. “These events are a way to educate audience members about mental health, its prevalence in the military, and how or where to get help. The biggest challenge in a cyberspace wing, and the military as a whole, is the stigma that surrounds seeking mental health treatment. It is our goal to continue to destigmatize mental health treatment and to foster a culture of help-seeking behaviors to hopefully one day eradicate suicide.”
Martinez invited Hines to speak at the event to tell his story of surviving suicide. Via teleconference, Hines spoke to attendees on his life leading up to his jump from the bridge, his survival and recovery, and now his mission to help others overcome suicide.
Afterwards, the audience participated in a question-and-answer session with Lt. Col. Emily Rucker, Sixteenth Air Force psychologist; Maj. Tiffney Peters, 59th Medical Wing licensed clinical social worker; and Dr. Soad Michelsen, San Antonio Behavioral Healthcare Hospital medical director of outpatient services.
The in-person audience then participated in the resiliency fair at Arnold Hall, where several community organizations set up tables to share information about their missions and services.
Note: Martinez, Rucker and Michelsen hosted a follow-up discussion on the Sword and Shield podcast, Episode 88, which is available at https://www.dvidshub.net/audio/69392/sword-and-shield-podcast-ep-88-mental-health-resiliency-fair-recap.