Rescued to be a rescuer
By Senior Airman Dylan Auger, 325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published September 11, 2019
TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- September is National Suicide Prevention Month, and much emphasis is being put on a mental health crisis that has impacted military members.
“Suicide is an adversary that is killing more of our Airmen than any enemy on the planet,” said Chief of Staff of the Air Force, Gen. David Goldfein.
Goldfein ordered a stand down, a day-long pause of operations for all units to discuss the issues and take notice of members’ mental health and concerns. Team Tyndall will be opening the floor for a service member who has a story to tell.
Tech. Sgt. Noah Stamps, 325th Fighter Wing chaplain corps superintendent, works in an office where individuals can go and talk about life issues with full confidentiality. His career field is one where helping fellow Airmen talk and work through tough times is an everyday thing. Earlier this year, however, Stamps was the one reaching out for help.
On April 8, 2019, Stamps woke up in a behavioral health facility in Montgomery, Alabama wearing green hospital socks and a hospital gown. They were issued to him three days earlier when he checked himself into an off-base emergency room due to thoughts of suicide. Stamps was scared of the thoughts, but was also scared of reaching out for help. He knew the stigmas behind asking for help with mental health concerns in the military.
For many years prior, Stamps had received professional mental health assistance from U.S. Air Force primary care providers. Stamps continued to struggle with depression and anxiety, including suffering an anxiety attack in November, 2018, in his office at the Air Force Chaplain Corps College at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama.
Following the anxiety attack and weeks of residual anxiety and depression, Stamps was prescribed medication. After several weeks of observation, the dosage was increased and some sleeping medicine was made part of his regular routine.
Just a few days after starting the new medicinal regimen, Stamps started to feel a dark cloud of loneliness set over himself. Stamps felt complete hopelessness and was desperate for relief from the feeling.
“I lived with that darkness in my head for six straight days, I genuinely believed that ending my life would end the pain,” said Stamps.
Stamps said that he was suffering in silence at work for several days, and the fellow Airmen around him could not detect the brokenness he was hiding inside.
When the pain became too much to take, Stamps reached out to a group of people he could trust. Stamps said they helped him create a safety net of support while he got the right care.
“Sitting here now, I know what to do to take care of someone reaching out for help, but at that moment, I didn’t know how to help myself,” said Stamps. “Best thing I could do was to say ‘Hey, I don’t know what to do.’”
After spending two nights at a close friend’s house, the decision was made for Stamps to check into the emergency room. Stamps had his clothes and personal belongings taken by hospital staff and laid in a secluded room for hours, waiting to be transferred to the behavioral health facility. Upon arriving at the facility, Stamps was taken off of the prescription and placed on a new medicine.
Stamps met with psychiatrists every day to discuss how the new medicine was affecting him and had sessions with social workers to assess his suicidal thoughts and ideation.
After four days of rest, the new medicine, and support from the behavioral health professionals Stamps felt like the dark cloud had finally lifted.
Stamps was able to return to work and continue providing a service to the U.S. Air Force. Stamps said that for Airmen, it is important to realize you are not alone if you are struggling mentally and that reaching out for help will not cause you to lose your career.
“I sought out help and am taking medication, and at the same time I have a line number for master sergeant, an active security clearance, and an assignment to Tyndall Air Force Base.”
Since returning to work, Stamps said he has a newfound skillset to be able to help Airmen dealing with mental health struggles.
“I can feel their pain, I know where their hearts and minds are,” said Stamps. “I genuinely hurt with the people who are hurting.”
Stamps believes that he was rescued in order to rescue others, and he hopes that sharing his story may inspire others to get the help they need and to share their own experiences.
“Hopefully, I can help somebody out there who is in a dark place right now and thinking about ending their life,” said Stamps. “I want them to know they’re not alone and they don’t have to suffer in silence.”