WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio –
The winter months kick off a season of colorful light displays and celebrations with family and friends for many, but for some, the colder, darker months bring on feelings of despair and loneliness.
Better known as the “winter blues,” some service members, civilians or their family members suffer from a condition that’s closely related to depression, while others may be trying to manage emotions tied to grief. Both have similar characteristics, but have different causes, said Kathy Murray, director of psychological health for the 655th Intelligence, Reconnaissance and Surveillance Wing.
“This season is filled with family, friends, tradition and anticipation of the new year. It can also be a time of sadness about many things. Grief can be especially heightened during this time of year,” Murray said. “We all need to be aware of the signs and reach out when we see someone struggling.”
Some of the outward signs include lack of interest in activities or withdrawing, low energy, or agitation and irritability, according to the National Council for Mental Wellbeing. Supervisors or fellow Airmen should reach out members they notice experiencing these signs or other abrupt changes in behavior, said Col. Philip Warlick, 655th ISRW commander.
“I appreciate and value every single one of our people. The last thing any of us ever want to see is the loss of an Airman. Unfortunately, we’ve lost a few outstanding Airmen this year. While we can’t go back, I hope we can learn from these losses, take better care of each other, and strengthen our culture of putting people first,” Warlick said.
Strengthening member resiliency plays a vital role in the health of the intelligence community and is a priority for the wing to ensure member readiness and reduce incidents – both accidental and intentional.
“In addition to offering a hand when someone is going through tough times emotionally, we also need to hold each other accountable for safe behaviors so we’re not, for example, driving home after drinking at a holiday party,” Warlick said. “In our business, we have to accept some level of risk, but we need to make smart risk decisions so it doesn’t cost individuals their lives.”
Being accountable as a senior leader – officer, enlisted and civilian – means taking a step back to evaluate what’s going on, and taking care of people, said Chief Master Sgt. Elizabeth Robinson, 655th ISR Group senior enlisted leader and acting wing command chief.
“Do not let something pass by that doesn’t quite look right,” Robinson said. “There are many resources out there to support our people, but help may start with you. It may be as simple as checking in on them to ensure they know someone cares.”
Willingness to reach out and connect with people can be lifesaving, Murray said.
“It’s okay to not be okay,” she said. “The important thing is ensuring everyone gets help when they need it. Any act of kindness is never a wasted effort. We hope everyone has a safe and healthy holiday season and a sincerest ‘Thank you!’ to all who are defending this nation, as well as to the families who support you.”
If you are someone you know is suffering from thoughts of suicide, call 9-8-8 for free and confidential support 24/7. More resources can also be found at www.resilience.af.mil/suicide-prevention-program/