US Air Force Publishes Mental Health Guide for Servicemen

The US Air Force has released a document on the comprehensive resources for warfighters seeking mental health support.

The “Mental Health Overview,” developed by Air Force Medical Service leaders, outlines critical requirements to support affected airmen and guardians in both clinical and non-clinical approaches.

The guide aims to “destigmatize complexities” related to mental health, identify corresponding solutions, and establish recommendations for care resources.

Although details were curated by scientific experts, the guide incorporates approachable graphics and simplified vocabulary to ensure that each airman, guardian, and leader understands the US Air Force’s updated perspective towards mental health.

It includes easy-to-read chapters on differences between treatments, care availability for various levels and symptoms of distress, and facts that disprove common assumptions related to conditions.

The overview also shows specific options to engage with mental health clinics, expectations for patients, and assistance through remission and return to duty.

The agency unveiled the guide during the 2024 Mental Health Flight Leadership Conference in Orlando, Florida.

“We have amazing clinicians doing their best and policies that afford quite a lot of flexibility. But there was no resource that explained the whole system,” Project Lead and Air Force Surgeon General Psychiatry Consultant Lt. Col. Eric Meyer explained.

“We wanted a user-friendly resource that could be used across the Department of the Air Force.”

‘Common Language’ for Airmen, Guardians

The air force wrote that the overview is part of a “continuing” transition of the agency’s culture associated with mental health, further equipping soldiers with knowledge to recognize how mental health affects their well-being and operability.

USAF F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot
A US Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot watches as the aircraft receives fuel from a 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron KC-135 Stratotanker during a flight in support of May 20, 2017. Image: US Air Force/Staff Sgt. Trevor T. McBride

“Mental Health can mean anything we do to take care for ourselves – from better sleep hygiene, to better exercise, to better nutrition. On the other hand, it can imply a more severe pathologic illness,” Air Force Psychological Health Director Col. Christian Smith stated.

“Each part of that spectrum is somewhat unique and can benefit from different resources. The ‘Mental Health Overview’ lays that out. Our hope is that this will help clarify terminology and can provide common language and help for all Airmen and Guardians.”

The guide is now available digitally and will be distributed soon in physical copies and chapter handouts across all US Air Force bases and mental health clinics.

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