Mental health clinic fortifies Seymour Johnson Airmen

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Sabrina Fuller
  • 4th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

 Military life can be stressful, however the mental health providers at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina, work diligently to provide care for personnel to combat mental illnesses and ensure that mental health stigmas do not impact the mission or Airmen's futures.

May has been National Mental Health Month since 1949, founded by author Clifford Beers. He wanted to help end mistreatment in hospitals against mentally ill patients and end stigmas and find treatments for mental illnesses.

"We build these communities and then we leave and start all over again," said Capt. Lindsay Marco, 4th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron clinical psychologist. "Deployments, income, family and adapting to new environments can all cause stress."

The mental health flight aims to provide care, treatment and healthy coping habits to deal with stressors.

"Keeping quiet about mental health because of negative stigmas can create isolation and can exacerbate symptoms," said Marco. "We all experience symptoms of anxiety and depression in some capacity. There's some level of struggle in everyday life, but we need to talk about it and be supportive and open."

In the military, there may be misconceptions on how seeking mental health help impacts Airmen's careers.

Airman 1st Class Kenya Dickerson, 4th OMRS mental health technician, explains just because an Airman comes in their shop, doesn't mean they immediately get put on medication or become non-deployable, sometimes therapy is all someone needs.

"We take confidentiality very seriously," said Dickerson. "The only time we need to report to the chain of command is when a person makes plans to hurt themselves or others, or if the mission is in danger."

One of the 4th Fighter Wing's priorities is taking care of Airmen and their families.

"Our priority is to get jets in the sky, but without people, we can't do that," said Dickerson. "If Airmen are healthy, it will improve efficiency and morale, which allows the mission to succeed."

Dickerson has spear-headed the Mental Health Outreach program to influence more Airmen on base through a face-to-face connection with Airmen from mental health.

"It's important to see where people are mentally," said Dickerson. "I go around units and personally speak with them instead of briefing them."

Comprehensive Airman fitness does not only include the physical body, but the social, spiritual, and mental wellness of Airmen, by ensuring that all their needs are met to effectively combat challenges and stressors.

"You can't neglect one area of your life and be fine; it's important to check in with yourself mentally just like we do physically," said Marco. "We want to focus on healthy coping skills verses unhealthy."

These wellness pillars are important to being a fighter and staying resilient.

"At the core of what resilience is, is the ability not only to survive, but to thrive," said Marco. "Regardless of the stressors, you are able to manage and succeed, successfully. Airmen are going to experience challenges and you can't just be in survival mode, you have to bloom despite the challenges."

Dickerson adds that taking care of one's mental health is important to staying successful and remaining ready.

"As the point of contact for mental health prior to an Airmen's deployment, making sure that all guidelines are met and that Airmen are mentally ready," said Dickerson. "No one should be in a unique situation or deployed environment where they won't be able to handle the stress or transition."

Airmen can contact the mental health office at 919 - 722 - 1883.