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59th MDW: Mental health impacts readiness

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Melody Bordeaux
  • 59th Medical Wing Public Affairs

Our mental, physical, and emotional well-being can affect many aspects of our health. Taking a holistic approach allows us to achieve wellness in all facets of life.

“It is a disservice to isolate mental health from physical health because they influence one another,” said Capt. Samuel Alex, a 59th Medical Operations Squadron mental health provider. “Taking care of your mental health requires the same level of attention many people give to their physical fitness.”

One common challenge Alex has seen individuals run into is when they hold themselves to unrealistic expectations, to avoid this he recommends starting with small, manageable activities.

“When people aren't able to hit their lofty goals, they feel horrible and stop prioritizing self-care,” Alex said. “Especially for people who are overly critical, it is important to be patient while showing yourself compassion because you are not alone, and everyone makes mistakes and experiences difficulties.”

Dr. Vivek Murthy, United States Surgeon General, released the U.S. Surgeon General’s National Strategy to Advance Social Connection on May 2, 2023. This framework can be used to address the public health problem of social disconnection while simultaneously strengthening social connection.

“In the advisory, the U.S. Surgeon General talks about different social support systems, and building a culture of connection,” Alex said. “The sixth pillar is comprised of three points, cultivating, modeling, and discussing the values of kindness, respect, service, and commitment to one another.”

The constant pull of life’s responsibilities competes for our time, energy, and attention which is why having the support of your wingmen, unit, squadron, and family can make all the difference.

“Life often feels like your foot is on the gas 100 percent of the time which can lead individuals to feeling burnt out and getting trapped in a cycle of negative self-talk…recognizing this pattern is the first step in changing the narrative,” Alex said. “Turning to those who care about you for advice can help shift your perspective to a healthier mindset.”

Mental health heavily impacts our ability to perform, connect, and lead others. When leadership models clear expectations, open communication, and demonstrate genuine care they show their team members that they are the most valuable asset of the mission.

“This is a readiness issue,” Alex said. “Mental health, wellness, and readiness are all intertwined. The more we understand and educate our members on the significance of mental health, the better we can execute the mission long-term.”

Investing in our people and in ourselves is a priority. Take the time to check in with your team members. Listen to their experiences or what they might need and remind each other you appreciate one another.

“People often feel isolated, invisible and insignificant but I would say you being here is not an accident,” Alex added. “The things that you care about, who you are as a person, what interests you, makes you laugh, saddens or excites you; are not just random facts … they're what make you, you and that is invaluable.”