KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. --
Every day, Airmen face significant challenges, and may find themselves feeling hopeless. In calendar year 2019, there were 137 Air Force deaths by suicide. Based on that statistic, someone we know may be contemplating taking their own life. When an individual considers suicide, it may not be that they want to end their life, but instead may want to end the pain they’re currently in. Not knowing how to end this pain can feel like an insurmountable roadblock. When encountering a barrier like this, we may think we need to leap over it in a single stride, or find THE solution to our problems. That can seem impossible. If that’s what living looks like – impossible – then the person may start to think that dying is their only other option.
Stress is a normal part of our lives, and can be an important catalyst of growth and performance. At times however, our stressors can seem to overwhelm our ability to manage them. If we can be more aware of the common signs of poor stress management, then conquering our stressors may become a little bit more manageable. When stress feels overwhelming, it can affect us physically, mentally, and socially. Physically, we may notice disruption to our sleep patterns or experience appetite changes, which can lead to lower energy and more frequent sickness. We may experience emotional or psychological distress, leading to anger, low motivation, anxiety, or even hopelessness. Furthermore, when chronically distressed, we may socially withdraw, isolate, or disengage in activities we once enjoyed. When these responses add on to the original stressors, it can begin to feel unmanageable.
How do we address this? One way is to attend to the 4 M’s of mental wellness.
The first M of mental wellness is Meaningful connection. Establishing meaningful connections with others is a valuable tool in the prevention of suicide. As Airmen, we must be proactive in building and maintaining relationships with others. This doesn’t always come easily, but with some help, strong relationships can be a powerful buffer against stress.
Second, engaging in Mastery is essential to promote mental wellness. This involves focusing on your strengths and positive attributes. For instance, when feeling down, it may be helpful to reflect on past times of resilience. Hard times can sometimes feel never-ending. Thinking back on experiences in which you have overcome, for instance completing basic training, passing a challenging academic course, or finishing a race or competition, can enhance your motivation to endure the current moment.
Additionally, practicing Mindfulness can be helpful. Being mindful of our emotions helps us differentiate between what is and what is not in our control. Focusing on what is currently in your control, while also practicing gratitude or being thankful for the good that is present, may help to further promote resilience.
The fourth M of mental wellness is engaging in Movement. Movement involves both physical activity, like daily exercise, and taking action to manage our stress. Mental wellness, like physical wellness, requires work and intentional exercise of healthy behaviors. We all get to choose how we exercise our mental wellness, whether talking to others, engaging in creative activities, or practicing meditation. Whatever we do, it should be regular and intentional.
If you find that you or someone you know is struggling, please seek or offer support. Well-being is a team sport, and none of us is expected to perform solo.
To learn more about how to implement the 4 M’s of mental wellness, or seek support in other ways, reach out to one of the agencies below who have the expertise, availability, and desire to help.
- Kirtland Mental Health Clinic (during duty hours): 505-846-3305
- Kirtland AFB Chaplain: 505-846-5691
- Military & Family Life Counselors: 505-440-2481 // 505-415-4027 // 505-730-0080
- National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
- Military One Source: 1-800-342-9647
- Kirtland AFB Command Post: 505-846-3777
- Local Suicide Hotline: 505-277-3013
- Albuquerque Veterans Affairs Medical Center Emergency Room
- Call 9-1-1