By Karen S. Guice, M.D., M.P.P., Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs
For more than 60 years, May has been nationally recognized as Mental Health Awareness Month. Mental wellness is essential for peak cognitive and physical performance and contributes to the readiness of our service members. This month the Military Health System (MHS) focuses on the mental wellness of service members, their families, retirees, and DoD civilians. We will highlight some tools and resources available for the improvement of the Defense community’s overall mental wellness.
I particularly want our service members to know that a healthy mind and body are essential to individual and unit readiness. If you are struggling with symptoms of depression, anxiety, social withdrawal, or changes in mood, you should get help. Seeking care for mental wellness is no different than seeking other types of health care.
You can help maintain good mental health by getting enough sleep, eating nutritious foods, exercising regularly, staying socially connected, practicing healthy behaviors, and managing your daily stressors. Operation Live Well offers tips on ways to manage your mental health such as taking care of basic physical and emotional needs, staying connected, and periodically assessing how things are going in life. You can also find information on recognizing signs of trouble including excessive drinking, poor life choices, agitation or anger, and withdrawing from families and friends.
Everyone should care about mental wellness. We need to educate ourselves to recognize signs that something may be wrong in family members, friends, and colleagues. Sometimes the last person to recognize symptoms is the one who needs help, so keep an eye on loved ones. Mentally healthy individuals are better able to cope with daily stress and overcome adversity resulting from long term stressors. As we highlight this observance and focus on mental wellness, we can also celebrate that most mental illnesses are both treatable and curable.