Suicide Prevention Month: new mental health yearly assessment

BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. --

Starting July 31, 2017 yearly physicals and checkups will now include a mental health assessment across the Air Force.

The new initiative will give Airmen an opportunity to identify underlying mental health issues that otherwise wouldn’t be noticed or addressed. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and even traumatic brain injuries (TBI) are all common mental health issues in the military.

“A lot of Airmen slip through the cracks when it comes to mental health,” said Marcia Buckingham, 2nd Medical group nurse. “However with this new program, we have given people the opportunity to open up to us. We give them someone that cares, someone to listen, and we have gotten nothing but positive feedback.”

The Airman and Family Readiness Center and the mental health office on base offer programs that can help Airman. Off base resources, such as Military Once Source, also gives Airmen the ability to see counselors off base for free. Airmen have many opportunities to get help, however not everyone will seek out the help they need. The new Mental Health Assessment initiative is meant to alleviate that issue.

Barksdale started administering the new mental health assessments as of Aug. 1, 2017. The new assessments can be completed over the phone or in person. Once it’s filled out a nurse will review it for possible red flags that would suggest an Airman is dealing with one of the previously mentioned issues. Depending on the priority of the issue, patients will be put into contact with a number of services between two to 72 hours after the appointment.

Almost every person they have seen has received some kind of help.

“We provide a space for Airmen to express their needs,” Buckingham said “We listen to them, provide help, and then they leave happy knowing that people care.”

Please refer to the Airman and Family Readiness Center at 456-8400; the Mental Health Clinic at 456-6600; Family Advocacy at 456-6595; or the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 if you or a loved one is in need of mental health assistance.

As a reminder, practice ACE (A-act, C-care, E-escort) when put in situations where a friend/coworker/loved one is experiencing suicidal thoughts. Sometimes all people need is to know that someone cares.