MacDill helping agency leaders host mental health panel

  • Published
  • By By Airman 1st Class Hiram Martinez
  • 6th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

To increase leadership awareness concerning the seriousness of service member mental health issues, the 6th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron’s Mental Health Flight, hosted a mental health panel here July 13, 2021.

The panel consisted of representatives from the Military and Family Life Counseling office, MacDill Chaplain Corps and 6th OMRS Mental Health Flight.

“This panel is critically important,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Raquel Salas, the Mental Health Clinic flight chief with the 6th OMRS. “We need to change the mindset and culture of mental health, decreasing the stigma, from the top down.”

 During a town hall meeting earlier this year, U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., shared the service’s recent suicide trends and resiliency efforts Airmen and Guardians should pursue for assistance.

“The last two years have not been the best for the United States Air Force,” Brown said. “The goal is to actually get it as close to zero as we can and get those who are having challenges the help they need before they make the ultimate decision that can’t be reversed.”

The Air Force is committed to fostering a culture that values and encourages help-seeking behavior and enhances individual competence and confidence in accessing appropriate helping resources as required.

The panelists emphasized that due to the rising number of cases regarding mental health, leaders have to get to know their Airmen in order to better understand their situation and direct them to the proper helping agencies.

“We can do a lot of awareness programs and the like, but it goes back to actually getting to know people and getting a sense of when someone’s not themselves,” Brown said. “It’s kind of hard to know they’re not themselves if you don’t know them in the first place. That’s something we all have to work on.”

Total Force Airmen, Guardians and their families should talk with each other regarding issues they may be having. It is important to take any mention of suicide seriously and that it is okay to ask questions about suicidal thoughts or expressions of self-harm.

“This is one of the hardest challenges we are facing in the Air Force today,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Benjamin Jonsson, 6th Air Refueling Wing commander. “We’re dealing with invisible wounds, a problem that even the most senior leaders in the Air Force are trying to figure out.”

For questions regarding depression, thoughts of suicide, harm to self or others, reach out to the helping agencies below:

  • Military and Family Life Counseling program (MFLC): (813) 828-0145
  • Base Chaplain: (813) 828-3621 (24-hour hotline available)
  • Mental Health Clinic: (813) 828-2273
  • Military Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255, then press 1, or access online chat by texting 838255
  • Emergency Services: 911