Mental health strengthens whole Airman concept

MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. -- Located toward the back of the 341st Medical Group clinic is a discreet, private office with blinds hanging from the door’s window for patient comfortability and privacy. This location is mental health and the Airmen there are ready to assist individuals with finding the help they need.

Senior Airman Ricardo Batista, 341st Medical Operations Squadron mental health technician, has worked in mental health for nearly four years and sees between 50-75 patients a week. His daily duties include taking care of patients who need support while dealing with stressful situations.

“My job is to gather information for our provider who is a licensed psychiatrist,” Batista said. “I sit down with the patient and discuss their problems and the provider will develop a treatment plan for the patient.”

There could be a stigma associated with visiting mental health where an Airman may feel their career could be ruined if they seek help, but Batista reassures patients there are rarely career-ending repercussions to seeking help.

“Visiting mental health is voluntary and it does not affect awards, decorations or promotions,” Batista said. “Only mental health has access to records and commanders can only retrieve the patients’ records on a need-to-know basis for the safety of their Airmen.”

In severe cases, Airmen can be discharged for being unfit to serve. However, Batista said the majority of Airmen that visit receive the help they need to return to work within a couple of sessions.

“My favorite part about this job is the gratification of seeing patients improve,” Batista said. “We try to give patients different perspectives and it tends to transform them from struggling with life to being able to manage the situation.”

Staff Sgt. Allison Hahn, 341st MDOS NCO in charge of mental health, said one of their initiatives is reaching out to the base.

“Each of us are assigned a group in the wing,” Hahn said. “We are trying to learn more about unit and job stressors, educate individuals on mental health and show them that we are friendly and approachable.”

In addition to mental health, the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment program and Family Advocacy Program are also services part of mental health that are available to Airmen.

ADAPT’s objective is to promote readiness and health and wellness through the prevention and treatment of substance misuse and abuse.

The FAP works to prevent abuse, but when abuse does occur, the FAP ensures the safety of victims and helps military families overcome the effects of violence and change destructive behavior patterns.

Both of these services, as well as mental health, provide preventative measures, counseling and education to help individuals during a time of need.

“Mental health is about encompassing the whole Airman concept,” Hahn said. “Mental health is important because if we are not 100 percent, we cannot successfully do our job.”

Individuals seeking help are encouraged to contact mental health at 731-4451.
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