HomeNewsArticle Display

Deploying mental health care downrange

While service members are medically ready to deploy, both physically and mentally, the rigors of deployment can take a toll. Mental health providers in deployed settings play a vital role in providing the necessary support to ensure the health of the warfighter and the mission. (U.S. Air Force illustration by Josh Mahler)

While service members are medically ready to deploy, both physically and mentally, the rigors of deployment can take a toll. Mental health providers in deployed settings play a vital role in providing the necessary support to ensure the health of the warfighter and the mission. (U.S. Air Force illustration by Josh Mahler)

FALLS CHURCH, Va. (AFNS) -- Deployed mental health providers play a vital role in delivering medical care downrange, ensuring the health of the warfighter and the mission.

Even though service members who deploy are medically ready, both physically and mentally, the rigors of deployment can take a toll.

“Deployments can be stressful and service members are away from their normal coping mechanisms,” said Capt. Karen Schaefer, a forensic psychology postdoctoral fellow at the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, Quantico, Virginia, who deployed in April 2017 for seven months. “When those stressors become too much, deployed service members must have access to care.”

According to Maj. Michael Ann Glotfelter, director of clinical health psychology at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, deployed mental health providers fulfill different capacities than they do in garrison. One of the reasons for this is that Airmen who deploy are stable from a mental health perspective, meaning there is less need for prolonged care.

“In a deployed location, we mainly focus on prevention and early intervention,” said Glotfelter. “We use channels such as briefs about normal adjustment on arrival, and base-wide events to shift service members’ perspectives toward the positives in our daily lives”

Much of what mental health providers do downrange involves things like classes on sleep or resiliency, working with units on basic stress management, being available for individual, one-on-one counseling for more elevated issues or concerns, and setting up programs for targeted interventions.

“One targeted intervention is the Combat Operational Stress Control program, only offered to deployed service members,” said Schaefer. “That program delivers educational materials and gives first responders a chance to speak specifically about combat operational stress, over the course of four sessions.”

In a deployed setting, these types of interventions helps service members stay in the fight and support the mission.

“We saw people for insomnia and other sleep-related issues and within two to three visits, we were able to address those issues to improve their sleep quality,” said Maj. Adam Dell, the 71st Flying Training Wing flight commander and director of psychological health at Vance AFB, Oklahoma.

Schaefer explains the mental health in a deployed setting reduces the number of aeromedical evacuations for mental health reasons, because they provided the necessary support for service members.

“We had people who were not quite sure where to go next and felt that the only way they could get better was to go home,” said Schaefer. “With treatment and facilitating slight changes, people overcame those stressors and continued doing their job.”

As Dell explains, deployment is stressful and many service members may have normal reactions to possibly stressful situations. Deployed mental health providers provide critical support for the warfighter, ensuring their resiliency, maintaining readiness, and safeguarding their ability to perform downrange.

“I believe that our best men and women are still men and women at best, and deployment can take a toll on their mental health,” said Dell. “Our goal (as mental health providers) is to foster that strong sense of belonging among our brothers and sisters in armed services, providing any support and interventions that keep them healthy and in the fight.”

Engage

Facebook Twitter
RT @AirmanMagazine: Getting help to the right location for land rescues in the aftermath of a major hurricane falls to the @usairforce Resc…
#B2 Spirit, a combination of #stealth & advanced avionics. #ThisWeekinHistory https://t.co/Bd7OrB3bbb
RT @AF_WSOC: 👀 who popped up with the big dogs on TopDrawerSoccer’s Top 40 Ranked Recruiting Classes for 2019! Excited to have these fresh…
For saving two fellow wingmen while deployed in Afghanistan, Tech. Sgt. Nick Torres received two bronze star medals… https://t.co/83bcAvqCxG
RT @DefenceHQ: Today the various NATO aircraft flypast at #RIAT19 to mark the 70th anniversary of NATO! Since its creation, NATO has been…
The @DeptofDefense has partnered with the @DeptVetAffairs to implement the first Women's Health Transition Training… https://t.co/JUTFicsXDw
⚡️ “Apollo 11 50th anniversary” https://t.co/GSeJYz6wPJ
The 413th Flight Test Sq. @TeamEglin successfully conducted the 1st #USAF piloted flight of the #HH60W Combat Rescu… https://t.co/wTyTtcmZjv
Jetting into the weekend like... #F16 https://t.co/wEWD7vr476
.@AstroHague showing his #USAF pride during the anniversary week of the #Apollo50 landing. @ISS_Research… https://t.co/WdgCFDmz6f
'Only two of us were not shot or dying': #USAF #Airman receives Silver Star for heroism in Afghanistan heroism… https://t.co/IdmKq8gtDx
RT @AFResearchLab: Dr. Lisa Rueschhoff was one of 82 engineers chosen to attend @theNAEng 2019 U.S. Frontiers of Engineering Symposium! Sh…
RT @ActingSecAF: .@GenDaveGoldfein is bolstering partners & #allies across Europe, discussing how we can be #StrongerTogether in air, #spac…
Annual recovery efforts have helped to identify 40 of the 52 service members lost when a C-124 crashed into Mount G… https://t.co/fdHUY2IATf
8 of the surviving #Apollo #Astronauts got together for the 50th anniversary of the #moonlanding. @NASA… https://t.co/szPJHXupa1
RT @HQUSAFEPA: Gen. Goldfein, during his keynote address at the 2019 Chief of the Air Staff's Air and Space Power Conference said the follo…
.@WrightPattAFB opened a #cyberdefense facility for #USAF Life Cycle Management Center's Fighters & Bombers Directo… https://t.co/QibdORLX2q
RT @GenDaveGoldfein: Our asymmetric advantage is represented in this room. It is all of us working together on a common cause. Great to see…