An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

380AEW Article

Maintaining your balance

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Marie Brown
  • U.S. Air Forces Central Command Public Affairs

Feeling anxious? Unable to focus? Dreading an impending event at home or work? We know that dizziness and exhaustion are often factors that hinder our ability to physically stand or walk upright. Likewise, stress, anxiety and depression can offset our mental stability. Luckily, service members do not have to attempt to solve these problems on their own.

The Mental Health Clinic is here to offer help, support and assistance and reach to out to make sure service members are mentally fit to fight.

“Our mission is really to provide care and support to ensure that everybody else can do their mission,” said Maj. Jolyn, clinical health psychologist and chief of the mental health clinic. “We keep people in the fight to ensure that they are able to do their jobs as well as help them function better.”

The stress of a deployment and extended time away from loved ones present many challenges to service members.

“Here, we see a lot of relationship problems, sleep issues, and an increase in tobacco use,” said Jolyn. “With these issues come a lot of anxiety or depressive symptoms.”

Just as physical issues have available treatments, the Mental Health Clinic also provides treatment for service members who may be experiencing difficult times.

“We offer a lot of different treatments,” said Staff Sgt. Ryan, mental health technician. “For example, if someone comes to us with sleep problems, we might do something like sleep restriction.”

Sleep Restriction is what the Mental Health Clinic calls Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which is an overall treatment. It is a method of using a person’s average total sleep time to develop a sleep schedule that better matches their natural tendencies by limiting the amount of time they’re spending awake in bed.

“Everything we do comes from this cognitive behavior perspective,” said Jolyn. “The idea is that we are looking at how people think about stuff, and then we are looking at the behaviors they are engaging in and how all those things tie into how they are feeling, their emotions and how they are functioning.”

It is just the little changes we try and make to help people that have a nice trickledown effect that improves everything else, added Jolyn.

Other programs and services that are available for service members here consist of anger management, relationship skills and communication skills classes.

“We can also do a little bit of work here in terms of bigger things like post-traumatic stress disorder or nightmare rescripting,” said Jolyn. “I also work with folks for things you don’t necessarily think of mental health for such as chronic pain, temporomandibular disorder (TMD) or losing weight.”

There is a benefit service members can expect by taking advantage of the programs offered through mental health.

“They lower stress levels,” said Ryan. “They also give you the ability to function at your optimal ability.”

If people can make changes and learn different techniques before they start to have issues or difficulty functioning then it helps long term, added Jolyn.

However, there are some service members who do not seek help due to how others may perceive them as a result.

“I think the biggest reason service members don’t seek help with mental health is due to a little bit of fear of a negative perception from other individuals,” said Ryan, currently deployed from Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., and a native of Pittsburgh, Pa. “There may be fear that their co-workers might start to see them as weak or soft, and of course that negative perception affects our own perception of ourselves as well. So it makes it a little more difficult to want to reach out and talk to somebody.”

The goal for any service member wanting to seek help is to connect them with the right resources to get them functioning so they are able to reach their goals, whatever those may be, said Ryan.

Just as in any other profession within the medical career field, the mental health team also has various challenging aspects they face and have to deal with themselves.

“We really hold ourselves to a really high standard,” said Jolyn, currently deployed from Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio and a native of Piedmont, Ariz. “We are the ones that is supposed to help people function, do better, manage stress levels and be happy all the time. So reaching out to each other and having that social support is very important for us when it comes to making sure we are mentally healthy and doing ok with managing our own stress.”

This team of mental health professionals takes great pride in knowing that what they do every day helps keep Airmen and Soldiers focused on their mission.

“The most satisfying role for me is knowing that I was able to help someone reach their goals,” said Ryan. “It just makes me feel a little bit fulfilled knowing I’ve reached someone and I’ve helped them.”

Aside from helping Airmen during their deployment, mental health also provides a reintegration briefing to those who are getting ready to redeploy back home to their loved ones.

“People can come in one-by-one and we can talk to them about their concerns,” said Jolyn. “We have everything from general tips to structured classes. We can go out to the unit for a one-on-one as well, whatever is needed to make it more specific to each individual.”

As Airmen approach the end of their rotations, Jolyn said that stress might be increasing even though they are on the downward slope.

“Just realize if you are struggling, if you are having a little bit of a harder time or if you proactively see it being stressful, we can help you think about what might be causing these feelings of stress,” said Jolyn. “We are just here to help people do their best and get ready to go home.”

(Editor’s note: Due to safety and security reasons, last names and unit designators were removed.)