Empowering positive mental health through options

Service members participate in a mental health awareness walk at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, May 31, 2018. The walk was hosted by the 379th Expeditionary Medical Group Mental Health Clinic to raise awareness to the many resources available for those experiencing negative mental health symptoms. (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Katie Spencer)

Service members participate in a mental health awareness walk at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, May 31, 2018. The walk was hosted by the 379th Expeditionary Medical Group Mental Health Clinic to raise awareness to the many resources available for those experiencing negative mental health symptoms. (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Katie Spencer)

Service members participate in a mental health awareness walk at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, May 31, 2018. The walk was hosted by the 379th Expeditionary Medical Group Mental Health Clinic to raise awareness to the many resources available for those experiencing negative mental health symptoms. (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Katie Spencer)

Service members participate in a mental health awareness walk at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, May 31, 2018. The walk was hosted by the 379th Expeditionary Medical Group Mental Health Clinic to raise awareness to the many resources available for those experiencing negative mental health symptoms. (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Katie Spencer)

AL UDEID AIR BASE, Qatar --

When someone breaks a bone, the standard practice is to get treated by a doctor. When someone has a cold, the standard practice is to get treated by a doctor. When someone has any kind of physical ailment, the standard practice is to get treated by a doctor.

Mental health is no different.

The 379th Expeditionary Medical Group Mental Health Clinic offers services to help people handle the stressors of everyday life. These services include educational classes on sleep and stress management, goal setting, relationships, reintegration and tobacco cessation. The goal is to give members the ability to cope with stressors before they seek help from mental health professionals.

“Life sends us curveballs,” said Tech. Sgt. Nathan Pinkston, noncommissioned officer in charge of Al Udeid’s mental health clinic. “And when we see the stress from work, family or others, it exceeds what we are used to experiencing. That is where the classes come into play.”

The job of mental health professionals is to return members back to duty if at all possible. The mind is just as important to the mission as the body, and seeking help at the earliest stages can result in an improved outcome in a much more time efficient way, exclaims Capt. Rebecca Morris-Davis, psychologist for the 379th EMDG.

Seeking help doesn’t always have to include going through official channels. The psychologist says that fellow Airmen are crucial in the early stages of potential mental health struggles.

“Wingmen are the first level of support for each other,” said Morris-Davis. “Long before others are aware that someone needs help, wingmen can notice small changes in behavior and can be there to listen and seek additional help if needed.”

Leaders at all levels can also aid in support. Supervisors, first sergeants, chiefs and commanders are charged with the responsibility to take a vested interest in their people and take action when they notice changes.

“As with all of our areas of expertise, prevention is the most beneficial means of avoiding problems, and addressing concerns in a timely fashion when they arise minimizes long-term problems,” said Morris-Davis. “It is unlikely that anyone would suggest ignoring a problem in a plane until it is flying; the same goes for mental health concerns. Solutions are generally much more efficient the quicker they are addressed.”

While seeking help is encouraged, Pinkston acknowledges there is a stigma associated with treatment and how some service members let symptoms develop in fear of losing their careers.

“Mental health has a stigma for better or worse,” he said. “But the truth of the matter is, anyone seeking help gets the highest level of confidentiality unless they say they want to harm themselves or someone else.”

Chaplains and military family life counselors are also options for anyone hesitant to see a medical professional. A chaplain has 100 percent confidentiality and a MFLC does not maintain official records of visits. These resources are non-medical and intended for short-term treatment; not for someone who has experienced trauma and needs more advanced care, according to Pinkston.

Whether it is a relationship issue, financial trouble, stress at work or trauma, Al Udeid Air Base has a vast amount of resources to support service members. However, the key to success is to use the resources.

“Don’t worry about the end game – worry about today,” preaches Pinkston. “Come get treatment. Just because something is wrong, doesn’t mean you’re a failure at life. You treat your mental health like you would a broken leg; you get help.”