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Do you know anyone facing challenges?

Patrick AFB, Fla. -- On January 9th of this year, I will commemorate the 12th anniversary of my father's passing. He contracted cancer at the age of 52 and succumbed two years later. Col. (ret) Fred Lamb was a great American and the person I most want to be like when I grow up. Since the worst of his suffering occurred during Christmas, the holidays have a tendency to make me a bit grouchy. At best, I have the tendency to withdraw, and at worst, I will snipe at the people I love the most for the least of reasons.

Fortunately for me, I have been blessed with an embarrassment of riches. My beautiful wife Patti understands and accepts my annual melancholy, my children are healthy and talented, I have a network of good friends, a great career that allows me to provide abundantly for my family, and I've been trained by the Air Force to keep healthy in mind, body and spirit so I can weather the blues more effectively.

Imagine if you stripped away a few of these tremendous advantages. What if Patti and I weren't doing so well? What if my kids had lingering health problems? What if I didn't have a gang of buddies to play golf with? What if, like 10% of the population on the Space Coast, I wasn't sure how I was going to make my mortgage payment or put kids through college? Maybe instead of just being a little irritable this Christmas, I would be struggling with my mental well-being. Do you know anybody in your organization that is facing challenges like the ones listed above? You're kidding yourself if you answered no.

A recent Patrick AFB quality of life survey revealed that many members (and spouses) continue to operate under the mistaken impression that a visit to a mental health practitioner will do damage to a military member's career. The vast majority of the time, that is a patently false belief. Going to see someone to help work out emotional or psychological issues is no different than going to see a physical therapist to repair a damaged knee. If you still don't believe you can get the help you need through medical channels or the issues you're dealing with are criminal in nature, understand that your chaplain retains absolute confidentiality in all matters.

As Wingmen, we should all keep our ears and eyes open during this season to make sure our co-workers are coping. Ultimately however, we must take responsibility for our own mental wellness just like we take responsibility for our own physical fitness. If you're having trouble concentrating, struggling to fall asleep, hitting the bottle too frequently or having chronic temper issues, consider seeing a professional. But if you're having thoughts that life is not worth living, get immediate assistance.

We need you to make 2011 a success.