MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Alabama —
The term “mental health” is a strange one. Too often we equate “mental health” with problems, symptoms or crises. But mental health is just that—a form of health. The brain is part of the body. As military personnel, we pride ourselves on improving our physical fitness, and the same should be true of that body’s command center (the brain).
In so many walks of life we pride ourselves on knowing what we need and where to get it. Are you doing a DIY DIY? Sometimes the sales person at your local hardware store is the right place to go. Attend a course? The instructor is likely to be a helpful expert to lean on. If you’ve had a tooth pulled, well, TikTok or YouTube probably aren’t the most effective starting points for solving this problem.
But there’s a double standard when it comes to mental health when it comes to taking pride in using the tools and resources at our disposal. I could just give therapy clients 10 years of psychology textbooks so they can be prouder of being self-employed in mental health practice, but it’s far more efficient to go to the right place to get the right expertise. That is why it is so important to know who to turn to and for what purpose in order to improve our psychological strength.
In the military, we are very fortunate to have the resources that we have available for this purpose. Military OneSource, Military Family Life Counseling, and Airmen and Family Readiness help us navigate stressful times in life. We always have chaplains on hand for spiritual well-being. Primary Care Behavioral Health can book appointments directly through the regular appointment hotline – people often arrive much earlier than the traditional psychiatric clinic. In addition, members of the Guard and Reserve can also access the Director of Psychological Health (DPH) within their unit. And of course we are also here in the psychiatric hospital. Air Force Bases are an amazing one-stop shop for a wealth of mental health resources.
Unfortunately, mental health issues continue to be one of the most important factors affecting operational readiness across the force. Suicide has claimed more lives than acts of war since 9/11, and demand for mental health services has increased by over 300% in recent years. However, the supply of mental health providers does not match the increased demand.
In response, we have a base-wide opportunity to draw on all of the services available to us. The Psychiatric Clinic is just one tool in a large box of resilience resources throughout the base. We have to rely on each other within the units and really check how those on both sides are doing. Good sleep, diet, and exercise can boost many of the neurotransmitters that antidepressants target. When the brain is part of the body, we need to balance holistic health. And we must rely on the multitude of experts and resources available just a phone call or a few steps away. At Psychiatric Hospital, we always strive to find creative ways to improve care and increase access to our services, despite the challenges of supply and demand. For more information or if we can be of assistance, give us a call at 334-953-5430.