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Servicemembers reminded to take care of AF family during holidays

MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- Although an Airman may not be able to go home to celebrate holidays and may feel alone or stressed, all Airmen should remember there are people on base that do care about them.Anyone who is experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression for more than two weeks are urged to seek help from a supervisor, primary care physician or mental health. If severely depressed or suicidal, immediately seek assistance through your chain of command, chaplain, or other appropriate referral agency. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Senior Airman Debbie Lockhart)

MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- Although some Airmen may not be able to go home to celebrate holidays and may feel alone or stressed, all Airmen should remember there are people on base that do care about them. Anyone who is experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression for more than two weeks is urged to seek help from a supervisor, primary care physician or mental health. People who are severely depressed or suicidal should immediately seek assistance through their chain of command, chaplain or other appropriate referral agency. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration/Senior Airman Debbie Lockhart)

MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- For many people who aren't in the military, the holidays are a time for gatherings and exchanging gifts.

Sometimes people take these moments for granted; however, for some servicemembers, these moments are few and far between.

Although some Airmen may feel alone because they may not be able to go home to celebrate holidays, all Airmen should remember there are people on base that do care about them.

"We know you can't always be home with your family, so celebrate the holidays here with your friends," said Capt. Samuel Tobler, 366th Medical Operations Squadron psychologist. "Make the most of it, and do as much as you can of what you would do at home, whether it's decorating a tree or playing holiday tunes at work."

Many might view going to a chaplain or to mental health as too "official," but there are just as many "unofficial" sources of support on base that can make a holiday season bearable. The first lines of defense are front-line supervisors.

Air Force Instruction 36-2618 states one of the noncommissioned officers' responsibilities is to "be alert for signs of depression or suicide in yourself and others." It also states, "Supervisors are often in the best position to detect early signs of depression or suicidal behavior."

Anyone who suspects an individual is suicidal should remain with them, call for assistance and monitor the individual until help arrives.

"For supervisors and NCOs specifically, one of the key times that they need to be tuned into their Airmen and those that they supervise is during the holidays," said Master Sgt. Eric Dye, 366th Security Forces Squadron first sergeant.

Dr. Timothy Wilcox, 366th Medical Operations Squadron mental health provider, recently wrote an article stating, "People with depressive illnesses do not all experience the same symptoms. The severity, frequency and duration of symptoms will vary depending on the individual and his or her particular illness."

Anyone who is experiencing any of the following symptoms for more than two weeks are urged to seek help from a supervisor, primary care physician or mental health:

· Persistent sad, anxious or "empty" feelings
· Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
· Feelings of guilt, worthlessness and/or helplessness
· Irritability, restlessness
· Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
· Fatigue and decreased energy
· Difficulty concentrating, remembering details and making decisions
· Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
· Overeating, or appetite loss
· Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
· Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment

"Nothing is final," said Master Sgt. Dye. "No matter how someone feels about something everything can be worked through. They need to reach out to somebody and get help and it doesn't have to be their supervisor or first sergeant but it has to be somebody that can help them."

If severely depressed or suicidal, immediately seek assistance through your chain of command, chaplain, or other appropriate referral agency.