Inside the Gates: Along with limit on alcohol sales hours, JBER reworks mental health awareness programming

Published: Jan. 27, 2021 at 10:04 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - If you or a loved one is in need of assistance or there is concern over a mental health crisis, call (800) 272-TALK (8255) or visit this website.

As it seeks to better aid members of the military and their families in caring for their mental health, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson has implemented time limits for on-base alcohol sales, as first shared via a social media post from the base.

The change comes at the direction of the installation’s commander, the post said, after “studies reviewed by the National Institutes of Health have concluded that restricting the hours when alcohol may be sold is an effective strategy for reducing excessive alcohol consumption and related harms.”

As such, for now, alcohol will not be sold on base between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.

Other long-term efforts to promote mental health, however, are being renewed in the form of various programs and different types of outreach, as organizers try to reduce the number of suicides and the often-perceived stigma that can come with it.

“Suicide is 100% preventable,” said Jill Meszaros, JBER violence prevention integrator. “We just have to put measures in place, personally, that will keep us safe.”

That includes having various options and programs that will “positively impact our military community,” Meszaros said, with a particular focus on several specific risk factors.

“There are seven CDC guidelines the Department of Defense follows as risk factors,” she said. “One is connectedness and promoting connectedness, increasing coping skills, increasing problem solving, identifying issues before they become big problems and then supporting people at risk.

“Providing access to resources and making access easy,” she added, “and then reducing barriers to seeking care.”

Meszaros said JBER is ramping up its programming for on- and off-base members and their families, and trying to make it all more accessible. For example, some opportunities offer both in-person and virtual options. Plus, despite the pandemic, the plan is to move forward with many of the base’s annual training and awareness sessions for its members.

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At the same time, outreach and advocacy for awareness are being added as well. One group is set to release a series of videos as early as this week that is all focused primarily on suicide awareness and prevention.

“Stress is an everyday part of life,” said Staff Sgt. Wayne Skaggs. “Everybody experiences it at some point. Sometimes that can progress into distress. And no one - there’s no exception to stress and struggles. Everybody faces it at some point in time.

“You know, people need to see this stuff,” he said. “We need to have those conversations.”

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