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Mental Health Awareness 2021: What You Need to Know

Mental Health Awareness 2021: What You Need to Know

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program has tools to help during hard times, including the recently-created Wellness and Resiliency Program. Some activities the WAR team teaches on live social media are journaling, different forms of art, improv, resiliency skills and live music. All activities apply resilience skills in day-to-day living in order to promote healthy wellness. (U.S. Air Force graphic by Kortinae Lozano)

Dyess Air Force Base, Texas --

May was designated as Mental Health Awareness all the way back in 1949 in part because the Greatest Generation was fighting a war inside after returning World War 2.  Combat can change you in an instant, within that tiny space between breaths, but so can everyday life, little by little.  Living and working under the strain of unresolved mental challenges is a bit like living with weights strapped around your head, hands, and feet. Sure, you may be able to take care of personal and professional business, but sometimes at the cost of sustainability, quality, and health.

However, over time issues and injuries can pile up until they are too heavy to carry and something or someone breaks down. Getting timely support can reduce the weight and free up physical and mental resources for the things most important to you.  In the Mental Health Flight and among other Dyess Helping Agencies, trained professionals are ready and willing to offer you the support you deserve and can benefit from. 

While people seek and avoid treatment for a variety of reasons, for those against or on the fence about mental health support, see below for some common reasons people postpone or reject mental health support as well as alternative perspectives and potential gains.  Help and support from a variety of agencies, on your own terms, is just a phone call away (see below resource listing for contact numbers).

 

Described Concerns

Alternative Perspective (AP)

And

Potential Gain (PG)

“I was raised to handle my own problems.”

AP: You sound like someone who sets a goal and makes it happen, not worrying too much about what others think.  Mental Health professionals are like performance coaches in other fields, helping maximize performance for go-getters with minimal problems as well restoring balance for those carrying more than their fair share of life’s challenges.

PG: “How much more could I achieve if my mental load is well-balanced and only as heavy as it has to be? Could I be there more for others if I had a better handle on my own areas?”

“I’ll lose my security clearance or career.”

AP:  Ask any knowledgeable CC, CCF or security manager and you will learn that grounds for separation or loss of clearance primarily come from the untreated consequences of conditions, not the conditions themselves if they are well managed.  Timely mental health support is much more likely to prevent loss than to cause it.

PG: “I’ve invested so much in this career, it’s worth talking to a subject-matter expert to make my big problems small and my small problems even smaller.”

“I don’t have an alcohol/substance problem, others have a problem with my alcohol/substance use.”

AP:  We all have blind spots and your use may or may not a significant problem.  Who better to help you see all the angles than someone trained and experienced in ways your peer, leader, family member or spouse might not be? ADAPT can provide knowledge, access to peer mentors, and when needed assessments and treatments. 

PG: “If I have a problem, they can help me handle it. If I don’t, I can get information to share with those concerned that validates my perspective. I could even just get information without self-referring if that’s where I want to start.”

 

“Everyone will know.”

AP: Strict laws, AFIs, and DODIs protect your medical information, with certain limits to safeguard health and safety.  Read them for yourself in the Resources section.  Also, if needing to attend an appt during duty hours, you generally do not have to disclose the nature of the appt.  7 MDG staff can confirm the appt to a supervisor without specifying which clinic you are receiving care in.

PG: “Not only do I deserve to have good days and could have probably have more with some mental health support, but others may be more likely to know what I have going on if I can’t manage it and everything comes out on a bad day.  Getting support could help me keep my problems managed and prevent my personal business from coming out at work. Plus, starting sooner means getting better sooner.”

 

“I don’t have time or a need for Mental Health.” 

AP: Mental health support is available both on base through the Medical Group and Military and Family Life Counseling Program (MFLC) as well as off-base through Military 1 source who can provide counselors that will work with your schedule after hours or on weekends.  It may be that you spend more time than you think being slowed down by ongoing difficulties than you realize. Time Support from a mental health professional could help you identify and manage the problems you see as well as some you may not that are still affecting things.    

Going outside of mental health, a good example is the professional race cars drivers of Formula 1, who drive 112mph on average and up to 223mph at times.  This high rate of performance is only possible because of timely pit stops to replace tires and parts, similar to how mental health support can empower you to identify and replace what isn’t working with something that will.  See the Resources section to hear 7x World Champion Lewis Hamilton share his thoughts on mental health as a “chance to become stronger.”

PG: “I make time for what’s important for others, like my spouse or my boss.  I’m important too and taking some time for me is good for everyone and I can generally do it on my own schedule.”

“You wouldn’t understand what I went through / am going through.”

AP: The Military Medical System uses established science and Evidence-Based Practices, also known as evidence-based psychotherapies and other terms (see resources section to learn more), to assess and treat mental health concerns and disorders. Similarly to brain surgery, this provides effective treatment even when the clinical team may not have directly experienced the full extent of a patient’s presenting problems. However, you might be surprised at what military and civilian providers have themselves experienced and are knowledgeable about. 

PG: “No one’s done everything or is a subject-matter expert on everything.  As long as the mental health / helping agency staff know what they’re doing, it’s ok if they haven’t done all that I’ve done.”

“I’m scared or ashamed of what I’ve done or want to do.”

AP: No one has lived a perfect life, everyone has made mistakes, and we all have things we are not proud of.  Sometimes it is not what we have done that defines us, but what we are willing to do about it.  Your situations might not go away and could become more challenging over time. It may be easier with help, you can try out different professionals until you find one that’s a great fit for who you are and what you need, and you can even just talk about difficulty in managing without going into specifics if that is what you want.   Your MFLC, chaplain, Mental Health Flight, or Military One Source team are a phone call away.

PG: “Is what I’m doing truly working, am I free from unmanageable pain and do I have a sense of purpose?  Can I live this way long-term?  If not, maybe I can make all of this smaller and easier with a bit of support. I can always start small and go at my own pace.”

 

Resources:

Dyess AFB Helping Agencies

Dyess AFB Mental Health Clinic

325-696-5380

https://www.dyess.af.mil/Units/Support-Programs/Mental-Health/ 

Dyess AFB Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment (ADAPT) Program:

325-696-5380

https://www.dyess.af.mil/Units/Support-Programs/Alcohol-Drug-Abuse-Prevention-Treatment-ADAPT/ 

Dyess AFB Family Advocacy Program (FAP)

325-696-5380

https://www.dyess.af.mil/Units/Support-Programs/Family-Advocacy-FAP/

Dyess AFB Chapel

325-696-4380

https://www.dyess.af.mil/Units/Support-Agencies/Chapel/

Dyess AFB Military and Family Life Counseling Program (MFLC)

325-514-8717 (adult)

325-514-8726 (youth)

https://www.dyess.af.mil/Units/Support-Agencies/Military-Family-Life-Consultant-MFLC

 

Additional Resources:

Information on Evidence-Based Practices

https://www.apa.org/practice/guidelines/evidence-based-statement

https://www.va.gov/HOMELESS/nchav/resources/docs/mental-health/ptsd/Evidence-based-psychotherapies-508.pdf

Military One Source: 800-342-9647

https://www.militaryonesource.mil/

 

Military Crisis Line for immediate support 800-273-8255 and press 1 or Text 838255

 

https://www.veterancrisisline.net/ 

Dyess AFB article on suicide prevention

https://www.dyess.af.mil/News/Features/Article/2358538/dyess-adapt-and-suicide-prevention/

Marine Veteran Maurice Naylon on the benefits of taking an honest look in the mirror:

https://thewarhorse.org/when-the-stress-of-combat-hits-you-in-a-high-school-classroom/

 

Maj General Gregg Martin’s personal story on the impact of not securing timely mental health support and his road to recovery:

https://taskandpurpose.com/opinion/bipolar-disorder-gregg-martin-military-veterans/

7x F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton on Mental Health and Self-Care:

https://www.espn.com/f1/story/_/id/29801942/lewis-hamilton-opens-mental-health-struggles

https://www.mercedesamgf1.com/en/news/2020/09/lewis-hamilton-legacy-mental-health-renaissance-foundation/

Service-members, veterans, and family members with personal stories on a variety of mental health-related topics

https://www.realwarriors.net/

DODI 6490.08 (Outlines command notification requirements, limitations, and patient protections)

http://www.esd.whs.mil/Portals/54/Documents/DD/issuances/dodi/649008p.pdf

AFI 44-172

(Mental Health AFI, see section 2.13.4.1 regarding self-referral and patient protection

https://static.e-publishing.af.mil/production/1/af_sg/publication/afi44-172/afi44-172.pdf

 

AFI 44-121

(ADAPT AFI, see section 3.8 regarding self-referrals and patient protections)

 

https://static.e-publishing.af.mil/production/1/af_sg/publication/afi44-121/afi44-121.pdf

AFI 40-301 (FAP)

 

https://static.e-publishing.af.mil/production/1/spangdahlemab/publication/afi40-301_spangdahlemabsup/afi40-301_spangdahlemabsup.pdf