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    363d ISR Wing Intel Officer overcomes mental health stigma

    363d ISR Wing Intel Officer overcomes mental health stigma

    Photo By Tech. Sgt. Anthony Hyatt | U.S. Air Force Capt. Amanda Burroughs, 363d ISR Wing Weapons and Tactics chief, plays...... read more read more



    Story by Tech. Sgt. Anthony Hyatt 

    363rd ISR Wing

    May is National Mental Health Awareness Month. As physical fitness is an integral part of the military, good mental health is just as important for your military readiness and well-being. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated one in five American adults experiences a diagnosable mental health disorder each year.

    U.S. Air Force Capt. Amanda Burroughs, 363d Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Wing Weapons and Tactics chief, understands this struggle. She also faced mental health challenges at a young age.

    Before joining the military and before the age of 22, Burroughs experienced the loss of both her parents.

    While this may be one of the heaviest losses that a person may face, people react and cope differently.

    “Losing your entire family so young is tough and certain things never get easier,” said Burroughs. “Every PCS move, graduation, promotion, or recognition always stings a little because my family isn’t there to celebrate by my side.”

    Growing up, Burroughs had always been interested in the intelligence community (IC). She joined the Air Force in 2014 as an intelligence officer (14N) after graduating from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Arizona. Her first training occurred at Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas after she commissioned.

    “I joined because of 9/11,” she said. “I was in elementary school when it happened, but as I got older and learned more about the world, I became very interested in the intelligence community before being interested in the military.”

    Although Burroughs didn't struggle with focus at work or school, it was the unstructured hours in between she struggled with the most. She began to have a lot of negative thoughts, low energy and trouble sleeping.

    The struggle ultimately led to her visiting the mental health clinic.

    “I went to the mental health clinic maybe around half way through the course, once I better understood that being a tech school student didn’t mean I couldn’t get treatment or therapy,” said Burroughs. “I referred myself. I don’t know if I would have felt comfortable going if a supervisor or commander would have recommended it, back then (2014, as a lieutenant) it may have felt like a trap. I was afraid of the career implications, so I went on my own before I was ‘told to go or had to go’.”

    Her struggles continued as she lost two co-workers to suicide and dealt with other challenges in her work life.

    “Being deployed and completing intense training certainly posed challenges to my mental health, Weapons School in particular,” Burroughs said. “Being proactive in my care and being stable before heading to school or overseas was important. Long hours, shift work, and lack of sleep are all contributing factors for those times, but being aware of my resources if I felt I was in a mental health emergency, talking to friends, and practicing techniques I had learned kept me going even when my treatment was on pause. Deployments and Weapons School are both common reasons to need mental health support in the first place, so it was a risk to go, but worth it to be able to complete those important milestones in my career.”

    Receiving treatment helped Burroughs in a couple of ways through medication and therapy.

    “Medication has helped because it provides my brain with the chemicals that it is missing or not making enough of,” Burroughs said. “We don’t think twice about drinking electrolytes after a workout or taking medication for pain, it’s just doing what my body can’t on its own right now, replenishing chemicals that are low.”

    While medications has been helpful, Burroughs feels that therapy has helped even more.

    “Having somebody I trust that can listen to my story, help affirm my feelings, talk through when I feel poorly about myself or something that has happened in my life, and teach me to redirect those thoughts is really powerful,” she said. “Our brains are pretty powerful and pretty tricky when it comes to keeping us down, so having an expert to intervene and restructure that thinking is important. Even if I feel like a burden or a bummer to be around with my friends, I know there’s a professional ready to listen and help me through the problems.”

    It wasn’t easy for the captain to go to mental health. Although many of these conditions are common and treatable, many people suffer in silence because of the stigma that is attached to seeking help.

    “I was terrified. We all hear about the threat to our careers from pretty early on, rumors spread especially in the training environment,” Burroughs said. “All most people hear about are the folks that get kicked out or have a mental health crisis that is dramatic or public in some way. The overwhelming amount of people getting mental health care, you’d never know it if they didn’t share it.”

    While she may have to miss work for some appointments, staying in good mental health more than makes up for the time lost if she weren’t getting the help she needed.

    “In my experience, being proactive, getting yourself some help before it becomes overwhelming or a crisis, is the best way to protect your career. It also protects your overall health, which ultimately matters more,” she said. “I think it actually makes you better at your job and can help you fend off vices or vulnerabilities that could jeopardize your clearance, such as addiction or abuse.”

    Burroughs added, that although reporting requirements may exist depending on specific jobs, it’s not an invasive record of your every thought and vulnerability posted somewhere for security, law enforcement, and command to read.

    “I’ve accomplished my reporting as required and have kept all my accesses and completed my reinvestigation since being in treatment,” said Burroughs.

    She believes you have to be your own advocate.

    “Ask the mental health professionals you work with to explain anything you may not understand, such as a diagnosis or limits to confidentiality, side effects to medication, profiles or restrictions etc.,” said Burroughs. “Review your records and treatment notes online to make sure you know what is in there. Communicating your needs, your goals, and your limits is the best way to help your care team get you back in good mental health.”

    Burroughs hopes her story can help break the stigma, encourage others to reach out for help, and be there for one another.

    “Sometimes being a good wingman for a friend with mental health issues means just listening to their problems instead of trying to solve them or poke holes in their logic or feelings,” said Burroughs. “Many of us are analysts and want to solve the puzzles in front of us, but that doesn’t always help when there’s something deeper going on. There are lots of resources out there on how to be supportive to somebody dealing with mental health problems, and a little reading can go a long way in helping your friends.”

    If you or someone you know is dealing with mental health issues, find support with some of the following sources listed on the Military One Source: Mental Health Resources for the Military Community • Military OneSource.



    Date Taken: 05.31.2022
    Date Posted: 05.31.2022 14:57
    Story ID: 421873

    Web Views: 266
    Downloads: 0