Commanders and first sergeants from across Seymour Johnson Air Force Base attended the annual Mental Health Symposium on March 30. The event’s intent was to equip base leaders with the tools necessary to support their airmen with the resources available from the mental health flight.

“We are a team with the same goal in mind: the health and betterment of our airmen,” said Lt. Col. Robert D. Greiman Jr., 4th Medical Group mental health flight commander. “We know the reputation of mental health is to try to kick people out of the Air Force, but it can’t be further from the truth. Our goal is to keep or return airmen to their fullest potential. Sometimes you need to take a knee and work some things out, and that is not long-term career impacting, sometimes it is career salvaging.”

This year’s event focused on the use of alcohol.

“When you look at the high interest issues across the three clinics in mental health, alcohol seems to be a recurring theme,” said Greiman. “If we can arm commanders and first sergeants with information, maybe we can begin to shift the culture and environment.”

Additional training topics included suicide prevention, the Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment Program and the Family Advocacy Program.

“The majority of the content is driven by higher headquarters on what is required,” said Greiman. “Over the years of doing the symposium, we have developed what we feel commanders want through the attendee’s feedback. Deployment information is always a big thing, and prevention opportunities are also highly desired.”

Maintaining the mental health of airmen is a priority as it is necessary to ensure mission readiness.

“The Air Force chief of staff, Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., has made it a priority to develop a community approach in fostering a culture of healthy behaviors, early health seeking behaviors and responsible choices while also ensuring overall compliance with mental health program directives and standards,” said Greiman. “This goes back to the team we have to forge with commanders and first sergeants, as well as getting accurate information out for our airmen to make choices.”

The symposium taught base leaders about the mental health services available on base as well as how they can support their airmen.

“It is important for commanders and first sergeants to participate because the mental health research and treatment options are ever changing,” said Master Sgt. Amber Pfarr, 335th Fighter Squadron first sergeant. “Certain locations may not have specific resources or authorized waivers. Knowing this, and for us to remain a ready force, commanders and first sergeants must be able to decide who is worldwide qualified or not. This allows the needed time for personnel to recover and heal to become ready for a future time.”

Pfarr added, it’s OK to not be OK, leadership is here to help, and no one should feel like they’re alone when life happens.

To learn more about the topics presented at the symposium or access mental health resources, contact mental health/ADAPT at 919-722-1883 or Family Advocacy at 919-722-1878.