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Understanding depression

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jim Araos, 39th Air Base Wing Public Affairs office non-commissioned officer in charge of Community Engagement, poses during a photo shoot Oct. 23, 2019, at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. Araos faced numerous consecutive challenges in his active-duty career and recovered from depression with the help of a Military Family Life Counselor. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Magbanua)

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Magbanua)

This is a stressful, uncertain time. The COVID-19 pandemic brought many significant changes to how we live daily life. Social distancing, quarantine, and isolation can be overwhelming and may cause feelings of insecurity, confusion, hopelessness, and, ultimately, depression.

“Reaching out for assistance when feeling depressed is essential for one’s overall well-being,” said Kim Harris, Eglin’s Civilian Health Promotion Services coordinator.  “Eglin has great resources available to help those who may be facing mental health challenges.”

People who are dealing with depression typically experience one or more of the following symptoms:

◾Persistent sad, or “empty” mood
◾Feelings of hopelessness, or pessimism
◾Irritability
◾Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
◾Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
◾Decreased energy or fatigue
◾Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
◾Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
◾Appetite and/or weight changes
◾Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
◾Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems without a clear physical cause and/or that do not ease event with treatment

We all have days when we feel down, but when the periods of sadness persist and are severe enough to impact daily functioning, it may be time to assess your emotional health by completing a self-assessment.  You can take a free, anonymous, and confidential mental health screening today at: myhealth.va.gov.  Screening results are educational, not diagnostic, but are provided so participants may find out quickly if a consultation with a mental health professional would be helpful.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, you may experience stress, fear, sadness and loneliness.  Learning self-care strategies can help you take charge of your life and are good for your mental and physical health.  A guiding principle that can help us all cope effectively during this time is to focus on what we can control.

◾Keep routines as much as possible. Maintaining structure and routine is critical because it reinforces order and predictability, and is something over which we have control.

◾Stay connected.  Identify friends and family that you can check in with regularly.  FaceTime, Skype, phone calls and other social media platforms can be a great way to connect family and friends.

◾Take breaks from listening to the news. Constant news about COVID-19 from all types of media can heighten fears about the disease. It is important to stay informed, however, if you are noticing an impact on your mood/stress, it may be time to limit your exposure.  

◾Engage in self-care.  Participate in regular physical activity to reduce stress and improve mood.  Eat healthy, nutritious foods and drink plenty of water. Avoid tobacco, alcohol and drugs. Get at least seven hours of sleep each night.

◾Do what you can to protect yourself and your family, including excellent hygiene and social distancing practices.  Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly, wear a mask when you venture out, and keep your distance from people you don’t live with.

Getting support plays an essential role in coping with depression.  Professional counseling services are available for the AFMC workforce and their families.

At Eglin, military members can call Eglin Mental Health Clinic at 883-8373 for help with depression. Military OneSource is also an option for military members and their families. DoD civilian employees can call the Employee Assistance Program for free, confidential counseling services at (866) 580-9078.