AAFB SELs develop mental health > Air Education and Training Command > Resilience to reinforce text display.

ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. — Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall and Air Force Master Sergeant Joan S. Bass recently discussed mental health care and the importance of supporting Airmen. Two senior enlisted leaders from Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma, followed in developing an 8-week course to help Airmen with resilience in the military and their personal lives.

The class meets once a week for a three-hour discussion with guest speakers, all led by Master Sgt. Amanda Gilbert, 97th Healthcare Operations Squadron SLC, and Master Sgt. Monique Tester, 97th Air Mobility Wing commander of Action Group SEL

“I’ve always been very interested in resilience and mental health advocacy,” Gilbert said. “I realize that many people in the Air Force have different backgrounds and some Airmen may have unhealthy ways of dealing with stress or may not have any coping skills at all.”

Each course is built around the needs of a specific Airmen class. As such, not every class is the same.

“We know that one size fits all,” Gilbert said. “Every base and Airman is different and faces their own challenges, so we want the Airmen in the unit to tell us what they need.”

Tester emphasized the importance of mental health and the importance of using healthy ways to manage stressful situations.

“Some examples of stressful situations would be moving away from home for the first time, losing a loved one, or recovering from a serious injury,” she said. “Choosing healthy coping skills such as music, exercise, cooking, art or spending time with family and friends can help, but unhealthy coping skills can exacerbate stress and negatively impact our mental and physical health.”

One section of the class is titled “Lowering Your Shield,” which provides insight to junior Airmen, including senior members of the base.

“This is a way to expose Airmen to people with more life experience,” Gilbert said. “They’ve been through their own challenges and tried different types of coping skills, so they’re sharing what’s helped them.”

At the beginning, middle and end of the course, Airmen fill out surveys about their current coping skills and mental health. This gives Gilbert and the tester a way to track their progress.

“We use the surveys to see if it’s helping them or helping them,” Gilbert said. “So if they’re similar, if they reduce some stressors, if they affect others, it helps us understand where we’re at.”

Gilbert explained that the class is also a valuable mentoring opportunity.

“If we can introduce healthy coping mechanisms early on,” Gilbert said. “Not only are we giving them a great platform to start their Air Force careers, but we’re also building better leaders.”

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