Campaign dispels, explains mental health care

  • Published
  • 23d Medical Group
To kick off 2017, the Moody Mental Health team has started a campaign geared towards dispelling myths about seeking mental health care and encouraging early help-seeking behaviors.

While our main purpose is to demystify mental healthcare, we also want to create a healthy understanding of mental health issues. In many situations, an individual’s response to an abnormal situation is the way most other people react to a new stress. However, if a person doesn’t feel comfortable or is unsupported in dealing with a stressor once it occurs, inappropriately coping with the stressor and others similar to it, can eventually develop into a mental health disorder. Mental health cannot be separated from humankind as it is the very fabric upon which human beings function and adapt to life in their environment.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, mental health myths that are prominent in the military include the belief that mental health issues are generally uncommon and may affect only people who are weak or may be manipulating the system and are not really medical conditions. Research published by the Department of Psychiatry, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences shows that many individuals suffering from mental health issues, both military and civilian, do not seek treatment (Brown et al., 2011; Rosen et al., 2011; Wang et al., 2005). Furthermore, research published by the American Psychological Association states that the attitude of high-ranking military leaders has been shown to significantly influence the stigma and treatment-seeking behaviors of other military personnel. Mental illness is more prevalent than most people think; one in five Americans experience it in their lifetime. As we will further discuss in this article, the unfortunate danger of myths regarding mental wellbeing is the very core of which help-seeking behavior has negative connotations and impedes proactive outcomes. It is important to understand that stigma continues to thrive and is often fueled by a misunderstanding of Mental Health care services; this alone can ultimately be a factor in affecting help-seeking behavior, as well as ongoing support. Other research reports by General Psychiatry, suggest that 57.7 million Americans experience a mental health disorder annually and 1 in 17 people have a serious mental health condition. Let’s take a closer look at the myths listed and the actual facts about seeking help for mental health issues.

Common Myths/Facts of Mental Health disorders

Myth: Mental illness is uncommon.
Fact: Mental disorder is more prevalent that many people think. One in five Americans experience it in their lifetime. One in 25 Americans experience a serious mental illness in a given year that interferes with or limits one or more major life activities. It can affect anyone of any age, race, income level and religion.

Myth: People are faking it or doing it for attention.
Fact: Generally, people would not choose to have a mental illness. Just as no one will choose to have a physical illness. The causes of mental health conditions are intensively studied and are real.

Myth: Mental illness is caused by personal weakness.
Fact: As is the case with major medical illnesses, mental health conditions is not the fault of the person who has the condition, but a result of environmental and biological factors. There is plenty of scientific research that shows the brain functioning of someone who is depressed looks quite different on brain scans of someone not depressed.

Myth: You don’t need therapy, just take a pill.
Fact: Everyone has different treatment needs. There are several methods to care; most people don’t require medications to begin to feel better.

Myth: People with mental health conditions can’t handle work or school.
Fact: Stressful situations can be difficult for all people, not just those who have a mental health condition. People with mental health conditions have jobs, go to school and are active members of their communities, all while dealing with their mental health issues.

Common Myths about seeking Mental Health Care at Moody AFB

Below are common concerns voiced by actual active duty members at Moody and all are myths regarding mental healthcare. These myths fall into five broad categories of concern to members: Career Impact, Family Impact, Social Impact, Interpersonal Impact, and Leadership/Organizational response.

1. “I won’t be able to fly”
2. “I won’t be able to arm up”
3. “Command will know my personal business and sometimes they won’t understand”
4. “I won’t be able to promote”
5. “I know someone it happened to and although the AF says they will support you, that persons career ended badly”
6. “Family Advocacy Program is for people who beat their spouses, not me”
7. “Fear that I will get Medical Boarded”
8. “If it has to do with suicidal ideations, then I will end up in the hospital”
9. “I will be seen as weak by everyone in my Squadron”
10. “Others went through it and did not need help to come out of it”
11. “My family and friend will think less of me”
12. “I have failed because I was not strong enough”

The Facts about seeking care at Moody Mental Health Clinic

From October 2015 - October 2016, 1,584 active duty members received care in the mental health clinic, to include Family Advocacy and Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment. Of the 1,584 members, 19.4 percent received on-going mental health services, 113 received ADAPT services, 111 received FAP services, 90 cases or one percent were on high interest log and duty limiting profiles, and another one percent received a referral for a Medical Evaluation Board. Furthermore, approximately 236 chart closures were recorded during the aforementioned time period with good prognosis. This shows that there is a misunderstanding of what it means to receive mental health care and the actual outcome.

These statistics are typical of what is seen in most Air Force Mental Health clinics, indicating the majority of active duty members who seek mental healthcare are able to return to duty having successfully dealt with their mental health issues without any negative duty impacts as a result of seeking care.

Over the next 12 months, squadrons at Moody will encounter a greater presence of mental health providers and technicians. Each squadron will be visited at least once quarterly with a greater emphasis on high ops tempo squadrons. Team Moody will see base wide distribution of bimonthly flyers with the goal of educating the base population on the facts about seeking mental health care. The outcome is to have our leaders, supervisors and wingmen encourage each other to seek mental health assistance early, when stressors are most overwhelming. The overall message is to “take a knee” before the “knee is broken.”