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Staying sane: why mental health is important now more than ever

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --

The thought of ending your own life may seem like an impossibility to some, but others may see it as their only escape. The COVID-19 pandemic has compounded the issues already existing with suicide awareness and prevention.

Those already struggling with suicidal behaviors and thoughts may be having a more difficult time dealing with the COVID-19 lockdown. Lockdown encourages people to stay home and not socialize. Additionally, the potential of losing a job and a source of income has become an all too likely reality due to COVID-19.

According to the Department of Labor, the unemployment rate in the United States sat around 3.5 percent in February. That figure may seem small to some but that’s nearly 11.5 million people without any source of income. That number skyrocketed to 14.7 percent in April. Almost five times the number of people, 48.2 million, found themselves without jobs. For those who were already suffering from suicidal thoughts and behaviors this can be their breaking point.

For those who are at their limit it is critical to communicate that there are resources available for people to use without it affecting their career or reputation.

Mental health is prioritized in many organizations. Although the training and resources are out there programs are still underutilized due to the stigma associated with getting help. 

Members of the Air Force and other branches of the Department of Defense are not immune to the struggles and stressors that impact people all over the world. Service members can be overworked, tired, stressed, frustrated, and struggling with depression just like anyone else.

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, the amount of all VA mental health appointments done over the phone or video conference went from 15 percent up to 80 percent. Campaigns to combat suicide and bolster mental health programs have become a priority for leaders everywhere. The issue has been recognized across the DoD and there are many ways service members can get help.

Some resources and helping agencies available include base mental health clinics, Military One Source, and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Friends, family, loved ones and co-workers can also help combat suicide issues heightened by COVID-19.

Face to face conversations with groups of people have been made easier with improvements to social media applications. Even with social interactions being very limited, friends and loved ones are a click or tap away to help ease the feeling of loneliness or isolation.

The need to be mentally strong both individually and for others has been proven to be critical for everyone.

Suffering in silence can make the feeling of loneliness and hopelessness weigh even heavier. Clinical resources, helping agencies, friends, family, and even co-workers are all avenues for support. Mustering up the courage to get help can be the hardest step, but by leaning on those around us, we can all get through COVID-19 together.