A sound mind

by Airman 1st Class Greg Erwin
Kadena Air Base

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Maintaining a healthy balance between work stressors, personal stressors and being away from family and friends can be a difficult thing to handle – especially at a high-pace duty station such as Kadena. While Airmen may feel overwhelmed at times, the team at Mental Health is always available to help overcome and manage stress.

With a variety of options, Airmen and their families can get assistance – whether on Kadena or with a partner medical network location on island – for anything from individual or group counseling, medication management, alcohol and drug abuse classes or any of the family advocacy components under the mental health flight.

“Whether it is hands-on talking to people, or indirectly via clearances for deployments or special duties, mental health is about taking care of people,” said Tech. Sgt. Jonathan Becker, 18th Medical Operations Squadron NCO-in-charge of mental health. “Sometimes you may need to come in just to talk to someone to help get a perspective on how to balance life.”

Although so many resources are offered, there’s still one major obstacle for the mental health professionals – getting enough time to help patients due to the scheduling of visits, Becker stated.

“If somebody comes in once a week, that’s only one hour you get to spend with them a week,” he said. “Whatever you’re doing to help during that hour, you have to hope they put it to good use the rest of the week.”

While mental health representatives see it as just talking to people to help solve problems, others may think differently of the resources.

A negative stigma may prevent Airmen from getting assistance when they need it most. Fears of losing a security clearance or being separated from the Air Force are common reasons some don’t reach out for help, however, the goal at mental health is to help people, not hinder their careers, Becker explained.

“My favorite part of the job is helping people,” Becker said. “We’re here to help in any way we can.”

When it comes to the bigger picture on why mental health is so important, Master Sgt. Kelby LaJoie, 18th Wing Staff Agency first sergeant, explained that mental health resources are absolutely critical to maintaining the Comprehensive Airman Fitness of Team Kadena.

“We can provide you the biggest gym in the world, but sometimes you simply need a personal trainer to know how to use the equipment provided to achieve your highest level of fitness – that personal trainer for your mental fitness is the mental health professionals at our clinic,” he said.

By using the tools available, Airmen and families have the opportunity to make the best of every situation.

“Realizing the need and seeking help from Mental Health can be hard, but it’s not a sign of weakness – rather it’s accepting that you need someone else’s help to be the strongest you can be,” LaJoie said.

“Make no mistake, our people are our most valuable resource and Mental Health is an invaluable tool the command team uses to protect its investment.”

Kadena’s Mental Health clinic is located at building 90 and is open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Thursday, and 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., on Fridays. To make an appointment, call 630-4817 (extension 2, then option 2), or from a cell phone 098-960-4817 (extension 2, then option 2). For emergencies, call 911 from a base land line, or 098-938-1111 (wait for dial tone, then enter 911) from a cell phone.

For more information, you can check out the Mental Health clinic website here: https://www.airforcemedicine.af.mil/MTF/Kadena/Clinics-Services/

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