Leadership Ideas, Information and News

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Asking for help is not crazy

by Air Force Staff Sgt. William Banton
JBER Public Affairs


4/24/2014 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- The men and women of the 673d Medical Group Mental Health Clinic are reaching out to JBER to debunk the negative myths associated with asking for help, while trying to educate service members on programs available to stay resilient.

"There is a myth that seeking help is a sign of weakness," said Tech. Sgt. Kimberly Orange, 673d Medical Operations Squadron noncommissioned officer-in-charge of psychological health. "Seeking help is a good thing; would you rather suffer in silence or reach out and ask for help?"

Air Force Maj. David Wright, 673d MDOS, a physician and director of psychological health at the Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson hospital agreed. Wright said the mentality that allows service members to be ready to defend the U.S. 24 hours a day, seven days a week, doesn't necessarily lend itself to making it easy to ask for help.

The biggest myth about mental or behavioral health is that asking to see a mental health provider will have negative effects on your career, Wright said.

"Seeking help early is a message that comes from the Joint Chiefs on down - ask for help if you or someone you know needs it," Wright said. "Early help-seeking has way better outcomes than trying to push through difficulties alone or not asking for help."

There is an idea that seeking help is a sign of weakness, Orange said. The idea is untrue - it's a sign of strength.

People are afraid they will be thought of as being crazy, she said, but needing and seeking help isn't crazy. It's no different to seeking help for a serious illness or injury.

The Air Force breaks down the concept of wellness, a key component of resiliency, into four dimensions, or pillars: spiritual wellness, emotional wellness, physical wellness and social wellness.

The Army includes family wellness as a fifth pillar.

The pillars are areas of life which service members should proactively monitor and seek help if necessary.

These concepts are part of two bigger programs: the Comprehensive Airman Fitness program, an Air Force-wide initiative focused on improving Airman readiness by solidifying the four pillars; and the Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness (CSF2), an Army initiative designed to build resilience and enhance performance of the Army family - Soldiers, their families and Army civilians.

These programs allow JBER agencies to work together to ensure services are available to provide safety, health and well-being, personnel preparedness and family adaptation for all Soldiers and Airmen.

The CAF and CSF2 provide hands-on training and self-development tools so service members are better able to cope with adversity, perform well in stressful situations and thrive in life.

Both initiatives focus on developing a sense of community for the active duty population, family members and Department of Defense employees.

"A lot of people, if not everyone, would benefit from talking to someone outside of a [medical setting] just to learn some of this stuff," Wright said. "If I want to learn how to work out, I can go to the Health and Wellness Center and say 'Hey show me how to work out,' or I can go to interval training and say, 'I've never done interval training, will you show me how?'"

Mental Health is currently providing classes on leadership, identifying your values, parenting of newborns, managing your anger and improving your sleep.

They are also pushing to educate service members on programs like Soldier and Airman Fitness while highlighting the differences in the options available.

"Some [programs] have the possibility of command notification, some of them are 100 percent confidential, some of them have medical record documentation and some of them don't," Wright said. "If you're concerned about your career and command notification, a perfect place for you to go is the Vet Center downtown. It's free and available to anyone with a combat deployment."

If you haven't had a combat deployment and are still concerned about confidentiality, Military One Source and the Military Family and Life Consultants are good resources, Wright said.

There are many options for help, and Mental Health is striving to do a better job with providing education about these programs.

"Service members should take this seriously," Orange said. "We need to feel connected and involved in something and when we don't feel connected and involved, our lives can start to unravel.

"Supervisors need to become more engaged in their subordinates and know what is going on in their lives."

For information on the CAF and CSF2 programs and a list of resources, visit www.jber.af.mil/fitness. For more on programs through the Mental Health Clinic, call 580-2181.

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