MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- September is national suicide prevention awareness month.
Some may find the topic of suicide difficult to acknowledge due to the emotional toll it has on friends and families as they experience loss, grief and healing.
Overcoming mental obstacles and personal hardships can be an unnerving process. Many times, service members are asked to perform under strenuous circumstances which can lead to feelings of anxiety and negative thoughts.
The Mental Health Clinic at MacDill Air Force Base is one of many resources available to service members who are struggling with mental health obstacles.
Air Force Capt. Brandon Farber, a 6th Medical Group clinical social worker, works with patients throughout the week to ensure that their mental health needs are taken care of.
“Mental health is never intended to be something that you go through on your own,” Farber said. “Support is available.”
Farber, alongside the mental health technicians at the clinic, work together to mitigate stigmas surrounding mental health so service members can feel more comfortable with getting the help they need.
Air Force Senior Airman Hannah Perez and Air Force Airman 1st Class Macey Nelson, 6th6th Medical Group mental health technicians, actively visit units on base to spread awareness on mental health and to build rapport with the MacDill community.
Perez recognizes that going to different units has helped the mental health technicians gain a better understanding of the stressors other service members face specific to their career field.
“When people come in we know a little bit about what their daily lives look like at work,” Perez said. “We can better understand what they’re telling us and actually be able to empathize a little more.”
It is important to the Mental Health Clinic to have service members feel comfortable in getting the assistance they need as well as for them to be comfortable during the process of receiving help.
Nelson states that the Mental Health Clinic doesn’t take a uniform approach while taking care of service members at the clinic. The team treats each individual based on their specific needs. Mental health technicians have patients go through an initial triage process to be appropriately directed on the next steps of care, whether that be seeing a licensed clinical social worker at the clinic or seeing a specialist outside of base.
Mental health technicians recommend that any service member, who may be hesitant to go to mental health clinic, call for guidance. The clinic can help find other services that may be more comfortable alternatives such as Military Onesource, chaplain services or a community provider.
“Your health comes first, ultimately,” Nelson said. “Do whatever it takes so that you’re healthy, happy and live a good life.”
Perez said that as military leaders, it is everyone’s responsibility to create a culture that encourages responsible health-seeking and healthy coping skills.
The Mental Health Clinic encourages service members on base to look out for one another and to be aware of certain behaviors that can be warning signs of depression.
Being aware and watchful of the warning signs correlating with deteriorating mental health such as poor hygiene practices, having an unkempt appearance and irregular sleep patterns goes hand in hand with being a good wingman.
When confronted with a service member showing signs of depression or abnormal behavior, the Mental Health Clinic recommends following the ‘ACE’ acronym which stands for ‘Ask’, ‘Care’ and ‘Escort.’
The clinic recommends directly asking the service member about their mental state and if they have had thoughts of suicide. If the service member has expressed thoughts of suicide, it is recommended you show care and empathy and to limit the individual’s access to any means of self-harm. After showing care and empathy, it is important to escort the service member to a helping resource or agency right away.
“It’s all of our responsibilities to take care of one another and to look out for one another,” Nelson said.
For more information on services provided by the Mental Health Clinic call (813) 827-9171 or visit the clinic located inside the Medical Clinic on base.