MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. – Beginning in Jan. 2020, the Violence Prevention office, in collaboration with McConnell’s community action team, will be introducing a new initiative called Beyond the Blue. The initiative aims to normalize help-seeking behaviors and assure Airmen that they can benefit from pursuing help.
“When it comes to the Air Force as a whole, and especially the big picture military, there's a strong stigma to seeking help,” said Ceara Shaughnessy, 22nd Air Refueling Wing violence prevention integrator and suicide prevention manager.
Based on the stigma surrounding mental health, there is hesitation among Airmen that if they do seek help, it will adversely impact their career, according to Shaughnessy.
To bridge the gap, the Beyond the Blue initiative will take steps to normalize the conversations that surround seeking help and getting to know Airmen as more than a number in a shop. Throughout 2020, Airmen in leadership positions will dive Beyond the Blue and share stories of personal struggles that have impacted them, both individually and professionally.
“Airmen don’t feel like people,” said Shaughnessy. “They feel like they’re a number. We have to start seeing people as people and getting to know them for who they are outside of their titles and what uniform they’re wearing so that we can bridge this gap and hopefully prevent the issues that are going on.”
“We all need outlets and support, and the goal of leadership is to support every member in every possible way,” said Col. Thomas Williford, 22nd Medical Group commander. “I believe Beyond the Blue will assist Team McConnell by promoting a culture of connectedness and comradery beyond the wear of the uniform.”
Through the stories shared, the initiative aspires to communicate to Airmen that they are not alone in their struggles, and regardless of a difficult situation, they can still maintain successful Air Force careers.
“We want Team McConnell to be successful,” said Christine Murray, 22nd Air Refueling Wing community support coordinator. “You always hear ‘take care of your people and they’ll take care of you’, but if we don’t take care of ourselves, we can't take care of the mission.”
In addition to leadership telling their stories, the Beyond the Blue initiative will make it a key point to highlight the services provided by McConnell’s helping agencies. The goal is to allow Airmen feel comfortable looking for help, but feel confident in choosing an agency that can best help them.
“Knowing you can make a mistake and come back from it is really important,” said Murray.