ALI AL SALEM AIR BASE, Kuwait --
To remain healthy and fit to fight, the 386th Expeditionary Medical Group offers a variety of mental health services, including assessments, therapy and counseling for service members on base.
The four-member mental health team consists of a clinical psychologist, a licensed clinical social worker, and two technicians—double the number of members from the last rotation.
“My heart is in mental health,” said Master Sgt. Lisa Thomas, operational medical readiness flight chief, 386th EMDG. “I've been doing this job for 18 years—I love it. This is now my fourth deployment as a mental health tech and any way that I can contribute to the team, I am ready and willing to do.”
When compared to home station, service appointments and the length of treatment are shorter.
“But it looks pretty similar in terms of the actual content of the therapy,” said Capt. Joshua Staples, clinical psychologist and officer in charge of mental health, 386th EMDG. “You come in, we learn about you, we figure out how we can be helpful and whether it's cognitive strategies or behavioral strategies.”
A unique strategy in this rotation is that the 386th EMDG is not waiting for service members to approach them with problems. Instead, they are working with the Chaplain, First Sergeant’s Council, different units and contacting commanders directly, sharing strategies that service members can use before they have a problem.
“For a long time now, health in general, was problem-focused for decades,” said Staples, a Portage, Indiana native, who deployed from the 96th Medical Group, Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. “Recently, it's [been] more of a positive movement where we don't have to be so problem-focused. We can help folks thrive even in the absence of problems.”
Early in the rotation, sleep is generally the top trend the 386th EMDG has seen service members struggle with, along with learning their job, stress, and trying to figure out the time difference between here and home.
“There's definitely some growing pains early on in the deployment,” said Staff Sgt. Joshua Corry, noncommissioned officer in charge of mental health, 386th EMDG, "like how you communicate with your significant other back home. That was one that we hit on a lot in therapy so far.”
Around mid-rotation, another trend observed is service members questioning why they do their job a particular way and then toward the end of the rotation, it's more about preparing for home reintegration.
“It's interesting because the installation turns over almost simultaneously,” said Staples. “You see clear trends in the early, mid and latter stages. You might feel like you're the only one going through that. It might be a trend across the installation that lots of people are going through.”
The 386th EMDG offers several ways to reach out to Mental Health.
“We're trying to talk to folks and do these kinds of sidewalk encounters where you don't necessarily need an appointment to ask a question,” said Staples. “If you see us out there, just ask—it’s a small installation. We'll see you in the gym and we'll see you in the dining facility. We want to lower the barrier and be really approachable.”
WhatsApp QR codes are posted at the Base Exchange and DFAC, and the number listed is the same number you can call to ask questions and schedule an appointment.
Members can also walk into the 386th EMDG (Building 594) to inquire about Mental Health, make an appointment, or pick up a flyer.
The 386th EMDG also has contact information and additional resources in the Air Force Connect app.
“That moment when they realize that it's going to be alright and that they can make it through a situation—that’s definitely what keeps you coming back day after day,” said Thomas.