Iowa Guard Airman walks across Iowa for mental health awareness

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Vincent De Groot
  • 185th Air Refueling Wing

Technical Sgt. Jeff Campbell is walking from the east side of Iowa to the west side of the state in order to raise awareness about mental health, a cause he feels passionate about.

The trip is taking Campbell on a 20 day, 389 mile journey that started in Clinton, along the border with Illinois and will end back in Sioux City.

“I want to remind people that they are not alone,” Campbell said when talking about the devastating effects of mental illness.

Campbell works as a “Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape” specialist for the Iowa Air National Guard’s 185th Air Refueling Wing in Sioux City, Iowa. Campbell says the main part of survival on the battle field is mustering up the mental strength or will to survive in extremely difficult situations.

“In the military we do a really good job of giving our people all the equipment they need, but it simply comes down to mentality,” Campbell said. “Do you have something that you’re holding on to, to get you out of this very small speck of time that you’re going through, that’s the big difference,” he added when talking about the key to survival.

Campbell says mental health is not dissimilar from physical health in that staying healthy takes work. He says there are things people can do in order to keep mentally healthy.

“I want to do what I can to empower people to talk about their emotions, feelings and mental health concerns,” Campbell said.

Mental health is a particular concern during these times of social distancing and isolation because of covid-19. Campbell says issues concerning mental health affect everyone. He said it affects people in urban and rural areas, and he adds that members of the military are not immune.

“It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from, somebody cares,” Campbell said, reassuringly.

He said it is important that people don’t keep things bottled up. He said he wants to encourage people to be ready to talk and ready to listen about their daily struggles.

“We need to teach people that these bubbles of time are not permanent,” Campbell added, saying that the way through a difficult situation is by talking to someone, while admitting that opening up can be awkward.

Campbell said if people can start having these crucial conversations, then they can start to strengthen their mental muscles.

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