By Mr. Christopher Calkins, 45 SW/PA
/ Published July 15, 2010
Patrick AFB, Fla. -- The 45th Medical Group Mental Health officer wasted no time in getting to her point.
"If you're even wondering if you need help, you probably do," said Maj. Kellie Griffith, an Air Force psychiatrist, who also serves as the flight commander for the Mental Health Clinic. "Call our office at 494-8234 and we can point you in the right direction," she said.
Maj. Griffith, who has been assigned to the Wing since 2005, ( minus a seven-month deployment to Afghanistan) said she has noticed an increase in the number of mental health patients seeking her care, and of the overall distress level of people around the base -- whether or not they're seeking professional care.
The reasons, she said, can be seen every day in the news.
"It's almost like the perfect storm," she said. "A higher Ops-Tempo, an increase in deployments, economic hardships, loss of jobs, housing values getting turned upside down, and the toll that personal relationships can take due to all of the above ... they all play a part," she said.
And in this somewhat volatile climate, no one is spared.
"The stress level has increased for all of us: active duty, reservists, and civilians," she said.
"Reservists and contractors are of special concern because they may not have insurance benefits if they are not currently activated or within 180 days of a deployment," she warned.
"Reservists do the same mission as our active duty Airmen do on a deployment and then return home and are often expected to snap right back into a civilian job, with varying degrees of understanding by their supervisors and co-workers of what toll the deployment may have taken," she said.
Her entire office is dedicated to meeting the challenge head on.
"We have tried to systematically break down every possible barrier to our folks receiving care," she said with emphasis.
"If the issue is anonymity or confidentiality, our clinic can offer confidentiality with three exceptions: (1) possibility of harm to self, (2) harm to others or (3) a fitness for duty issue," she added.
She was also quick to explain her office is not "going this alone."
She said the 45th SW Chaplains and the Military Family Life Consultant (MFLC) can offer confidentiality without a written record being kept. Chapel services, she said, are offered to everyone that has base access, i.e., active duty, reservists, civilians, contractors, dependents, and retirees.
In addition, she said there are online resources such as militarymentalhealth.org for mental health assessment and militaryonesource.com for treatment.
The mental health clinic also offers four "off-the-record" appointments after a deployment or after someone has suffered a traumatic event (car accident, suicide of a loved one, etc.)
Faced with the increasing divorce rate around the Air Force and here in the local area, Maj. Griffith said couples could also see the MFLC, or utilize Family Advocacy Strength-Based
Therapy (FAST) and RELATE for couples (https://www.relate-institute.org/).
(Mr. Reggie Love, Airman & Family Readiness Center, said interested couples must come to his office and receive the pin so the RELATE report can be free of charge).
No record is kept with any of those three services for couples.
So what can supervisors or co-workers do to help?
"Don't stay in your office. Get out and meet your people where they work," she said. "When you talk to them, ask specific open-ended questions. Instead of asking, "How have you been?" say, "How has soccer season been going for you?" or "I've noticed that haven't been as talkative as you usually are; why is that?"
The bottom line, she said, is pretty easy to see.
"Look, we have people out there who are hurting, just like they are everywhere else." That's something we all have to recognize; something we all have to address.
"You don't have to be a commander or supervisor to get involved. You just need to be a good Wingman. We need to all pull together and give each other a helping hand," she said.
"It's what Wingmen do."
EMP ASSISTANCE PROGRAM: 494-5372
FAMILY ADVOCACY PROGRAM: 494-8171
HEALTH & WELLNESS CENTER: 494-5675
MENTAL HEALTH: 494-8234
MILITARY EO: 494-6333
MILITARY ONE SOURCE: 1-800-342-9647