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Storytellers: Narratives on mental health

Participants share their experiences overcoming adversity during a Storytellers event at Kadena Air Base, Japan, Sept. 9, 2021.

Participants in the Storytellers event at Kadena Air Base, Japan, pose for a photo after sharing their experiences, Sept. 9, 2021. After the event, those in attendance received gift bags with resources like a pocket journal, local crisis resource directory and a Mental Health Peer Alliance bookmark. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Anna Nolte)

Participants share their experiences overcoming adversity during a Storytellers event at Kadena Air Base, Japan, Sept. 9, 2021.

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Edward Mann, 18th Security Forces Squadron installation security NCO in charge, speaks at a Storytellers event at Kadena Air Base, Japan, Sept. 9, 2021. The event was one of several events planned for Suicide Awareness and Prevention Month, which aims to start conversations and share information about the often stigmatized subject. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Anna Nolte)

Participants share their experiences overcoming adversity during a Storytellers event at Kadena Air Base, Japan, Sept. 9, 2021.

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Edward Mann, left, 18th Security Forces Squadron installation security NCO in charge, Senior Airman Joshua Inglis, middle, 18th Security Forces Squadron defender, and Sarah Russell, right, founder and creator of the Mental Health Peer Alliance, share their experiences at a Storytellers event at Kadena Air Base, Japan, Sept. 9, 2021. Mental health was a common theme during the event, with stories ranging from experiencing a friend committing suicide to being diagnosed with bipolar disorder. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Anna Nolte)

Participants share their experiences overcoming adversity during a Storytellers event at Kadena Air Base, Japan, Sept. 9, 2021.

Sarah Russell, right, founder and creator of the Mental Health Peer Alliance, speaks during a Storytellers event at Kadena Air Base, Japan, Sept. 9, 2021. The event aimed to foster connection and allow people to feel comfortable reaching out if they’re in need, with several participants staying after the event to talk. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Anna Nolte)

Participants share their experiences overcoming adversity during a Storytellers event at Kadena Air Base, Japan, Sept. 9, 2021.

Sarah Russell, founder and creator of the Mental Health Peer Alliance, speaks during a Storytellers event at Kadena Air Base, Japan, Sept. 9, 2021. The Mental Health Peer Alliance functions as an outpatient support system for those who struggle with mental illness, encouraging connection and friendship. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Anna Nolte)

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan --

Three storytellers shared their experiences with overcoming adversity during a Storytellers event hosted by the Violence Prevention Team at the McDaniel Center at Kadena Air Base, Japan, Sept. 9, 2021.

Storytellers is a forum that allows individuals to be open about something they’ve gone through, or are going through, in a safe environment that is free from judgment, explained Nicole Moss, 18th Wing suicide prevention program manager. Lifelong friendships can happen just from finding out someone went through something similar, and that connection is what Storytellers wants to promote.

“Storytellers events are important because it's good to talk and share, especially during COVID times,” Moss said. “These events can open up a lot of doors and avenues for you to feel better talking about some of these issues that you may have – because somebody else may be going through the same thing.”

As one of several events planned to highlight September as Suicide Awareness and Prevention Month, Storytellers focused on stories about mental health instead of its usual emphasis on resiliency.

Regardless of the topic, however, anyone is welcome to share their story, Moss explained.

Stories included topics ranging from being diagnosed with bipolar disorder to processing a friend’s suicide. One storyteller, U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Edward Mann, 18th Security Forces Squadron installation security NCO in charge, shared his experience of being abused as a child, and how he found help when thoughts of suicide followed him into his adult life.

“I feel like a lot of people try to get through things by themselves,” Mann said. “They might feel like they're the only ones. Maybe seeing somebody [experience those same challenges] that has lived 20 plus years in the Air Force and has done well for himself, maybe that would help out other people.”

Storytellers is an event that aims to connect people and build interpersonal relationships, as well as bringing awareness to mental health issues.

“I know sometimes it does feel like you're by yourself, but everybody has a story,” Mann said. “You just have to be willing to listen.”

For more information and resources available for Suicide Awareness and Prevention Month, please reach out to a Military Family Life Consultant (634-3366), chaplain (634-1288) or the Kadena Mental Health Clinic (DSN 634-3272).