Mental health awareness

  • Published
  • By Greg Chadwick
  • Air Force Materiel Command Health and Wellness Team

The health of the mind is just important as the health of the body. Our mental health is an important part of our well-being.

What is mental health?

Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act, and helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices, according to the National Institute of Mental Health

What are mental health conditions?

Mental illnesses are disorders, ranging from mild to severe, that affect a person’s thinking, mood, and/or behavior. The NIMH reports that nearly one-in-five adults live with a mental illness.

What is the most commonly diagnosed mental health disorder in active duty service members?

Adjustment disorder is the most commonly diagnosed incident mental health disorder among active component service members of the U.S. Armed Forces. It accounted for nearly one third (30.8%) of incident mental health diagnoses during the period of 2016 to 2020, according to the Defense Health Agency.

An adjustment disorder is an emotional or behavioral reaction to a stressful event or change in a person’s life. The reaction is considered an unhealthy or excessive response to the event or change if you are still experiencing a negative impact within three months of it happening.

There are many possible causes of adjustment disorders. Generally, it’s any situation you perceive as stressful and that causes significant problems in your work, social or home life.

Some examples include:

  • Adapting to some of the unique psychosocial and physical demands of military life
  • Death of a family member or friend
  • Relationship issues, including breakups, martial problems, and divorce
  • Serious health issues
  • Financial difficulties
  • Work issues (job loss, failing to meet goals)
  • Disaster or unexpected tragedy

For some people, trying to cope with the stress that comes with these changes can be so overwhelming that it disrupts their lives.

What are early warning signs and symptoms of mental health problems?

  • Eating or sleeping too much or too little
  • Pulling away from people and usual activities
  • Having low or no energy
  • Feeling numb or like nothing matters
  • Having unexplained aches and pains
  • Feeling helpless or hopeless
  • Smoking, drinking, or using drugs more than usual
  • Feeling unusually confused, forgetful, on edge, angry, upset, worries, or scared
  • Yelling or fighting with family and friends
  • Experiencing severe mood swings that cause problems in relationships
  • Having persistent thoughts and memories you can’t get out of your head
  • Hearing voices or believing things that are not true
  • Thinking of harming yourself or others
  • Inability to perform daily tasks like taking care of your kids or getting to work or school

My mental health: Do I need help?

We all have days when we feel down, but when periods of excessive worry and/or sadness persist for 2 weeks or more and are severe enough to impact daily functioning, it may be time to assess your emotional health by completing a self-assessment. You can take a free, anonymous, and confidential mental health screening today at: Screening results are educational, not diagnostic, but are provided so participants may find out quickly if a consultation with a mental health professional would be helpful.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, call or text the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 or chat at, or text the Crisis Text Line (text HELLO to 741741).

What are some self-care strategies I can use to care for my emotional well-being?

“Learning positive coping skills and use them early on when an event occurs can help with managing the stressor,” said Lt. Col Tracy Markle, AFMC Behavioral Health Chief. “Self-care is an important part of building resiliency. When you focus on taking time to do things that help you live well and improve both your physical and mental health you are stronger when life challenges happen.”

Markle recommends the following tips to help get started with self-care:

- Stay Connected. Stay in contact with family, friends, and/or community who can provide emotional support and practical help.

- Focus on positivity. Be hopeful about the future and identify and challenge your negative and unhelpful thoughts.           

- Try a relaxing activity. Practice mindfulness, such as through journaling, prayer or yoga.

- Practice gratitude. Remind yourself daily of things you are grateful for.

- Get regular exercise. Just 30 minutes of walking every day can help boost your mood and

 improve your health.

- Eat healthy. Try to consume 2-3 meals daily and stay hydrated. A balanced diet and plenty of water can improve your energy and focus throughout the day.

-Make sleep a priority. Stick to a schedule, and make sure you’re getting enough sleep.

Markle stated mental health and physical health go hand and hand. Most of use invest in our physical health by making life choices or changes to help our body function well; we should treat our mental health no differently.  Markle states that although self-care is important; it is not to replace professional help if you are experiencing moderate to significant mental health concerns.

If mental health problems are getting in the way of you properly caring for yourself and others, professional counseling services are available for the AFMC workforce and their families.

Military members can contact their local mental health clinic for services. Military Family Life Counselors are another great resource (Contact your MFRC for information). Military OneSource is another option for the military and their families. For more information, call (800) 342-9647 or visit

Civilian employees and their family members may contact the Employee Assistance Program for free, confidential counseling services at (866) 580-9078, or visit the EAP website at

Comprehensive information on how to improve your emotional health can be found at the National Institutes of Health website.