AFMC Command News

Experts: Community connection key for mental health

  • Published
  • By Jaima Fogg
  • 88th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – It’s no secret that military life comes with many unique challenges and stressors. An important but often overlooked element of military service is a feeling of connectedness with one’s community.

Frequent moves, deployments, and separation from family and friends can make finding and maintaining that connection difficult. Losing one’s community and struggling to find another can be a stressful and daunting task, as well as mentally and emotionally taxing.

September is National Suicide Prevention Month. It is a time to raise awareness about suicide as a serious public health problem and highlight the role everyone can play in preventing it.

While many factors contribute to thoughts of self-harm, experts say a sense of belonging in a community may help alleviate feelings of worthlessness, disconnection and detachment.

“One of the most protective factors that I have found is if a person can feel connected to their community, it gives them a sense of service and keeps them feeling valued and appreciated,” said Thomas Tirey, the 88th Air Base Wing’s Integrated Prevention and Resilience Office chief. “Service isn’t necessarily even something that they physically do – sometimes, it’s just being present.”

In this sense, community is defined by the individual, he added. It can be a literal community like a neighborhood, group of people who share similar interests or just another person.  

Taking time to interact regularly with one’s chosen community creates the opportunity for meaningful engagement that can make a difference.

Tirey encourages people to care by listening and being “helpfully nosey.” Check in with friends, family members and co-workers. Notice changes in one another and ask about them but do it in a way that is both kind and gentle.

“Wherever I find healthy people, they are always contributing to their community – whatever that is,” Tirey said. “They’re contributing, they feel valued, they feel appreciated. Community is always a huge element in their life.”

How to help

Be an ACE

Ask: Are you thinking of harming yourself?

Care: Actively listen without judgment.

Escort: To chaplain, medical or mental health professional.


Dial 988: Suicide & Crisis Lifeline

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