Wright-Patt offers courses to empower resiliency

  • Published
  • By Megan Mudersbach
  • 88th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – Everyone has a story and many people deal with mental health challenges. Wright-Patterson Air Force Base stands firm in making resources available to those in need and equipping those who seek to support. 

Mental health crisis-intervention courses are available for Wright-Patt personnel. The focus is on learning the signs and symptoms of someone going through a challenge or crisis and how to connect that person to helping agencies and professional help.

Aligned with the 88th Air Base Wing commander’s first line of effort, “Strengthen and care for our team,” the installation violence prevention integrator serves the Wright-Patt community by providing nonclinical and primary prevention policies, practices, programs and processes focused on eliminating incidences of interpersonal violence and suicide. 

“I am committed to discovering and implementing the best practices, informed by data and analysis, while partnering with base helping agencies, academia, local community and (Department of Defense) partners,” said Thomas Tirey, violence prevention integrator. “My office is dedicated to reducing interpersonal violence and suicide and its harmful effects on the Air Force.”

In the program’s first year, 246 Team Wright-Patt members completed crisis-intervention courses.

One participant, Alice “Betsy” Grimes, the Air Force Institute of Technology’s director of faculty development for the Graduate School of Engineering and Management and Center for Innovation in Education director, shared how the MHFA course impacted her.

“It has been gratifying to participate in the provision of the Mental Health First Aid courses across WPAFB and observe the growing awareness of mental health issues and the empowerment participant’s gain from completing the course,” she said. “Participants also develop an understanding of the link between physical, social, and psychological well-being and how each can impact the others.”

For Grimes, the motivation to participate stemmed from her background in social sciences and recognizing the need for education and awareness of mental illness.

“Our society is experiencing a greater awareness of mental health issues due to the impact of COVID and the resulting increases in substance abuse, depression and anxiety, and suicide risk,” she said.

Tirey’s hope is to contribute toward “building environments that promote healthy and adaptive behaviors, foster the wingman culture, and encourage responsible and early help-seeking behaviors.”

“This may be one of the most important services that my office provides because knowing what to do is the most important part of being willing to do what must be done,” Tirey said. 

Crisis-intervention courses

The Mental Health First Aid course teaches how to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illness and substance-abuse disorders.

The safeTALK course helps individuals recognize people who display suicidal thoughts and invite help to stay safe by connecting them with intervention resources.

The Leadership Suicide Prevention Immersion course is offered to all WPAFB leaders to facilitate a clear understanding with regard to their role in the Air Force’s Suicide Prevention Program.

For more information or to register for these courses, military and government civilians can go to the Air Force Education and Training Management System at https://myetms.wpafb.af.mil/myetmsasp/main.asp.  

Community approach

Mental health is a total force initiative that encompasses the physical, mental, spiritual and social domains. To maximize impact, the Wright-Patt violence prevention integrator’s office collaborates with base helping agencies, as well as those within the local community.

Tirey is working with the Dayton Veterans Affairs suicide prevention coordinators to distribute gunlocks to local veterans.

“The goal was to distribute 2,000 gunlocks. As of May 15, 2022, my office has distributed approximately 1,500 gunlocks over a 12-month period,” he said.

In March 2021, Wright-Patt’s violence prevention integrator program was awarded a grant from Montgomery County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services to train eight instructors. Tirey says such partnerships have allowed the installation to take advantage of training that would have been unavailable otherwise.

Although Mental Health Awareness Month is wrapping up, it is always a good time to raise awareness and normalize the topic of mental health.

“People really do need help, but sometimes they will not ask, so help them anyway. Be a good wingman,” Tirey said.