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Empowering service members: advancing mental health access, targeted care

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Melody Bordeaux
  • 59th Medical Wing Public Affairs

Taking the initiative to seek help for emotional difficulties is a courageous and responsible step for a service member.

According to a recent study, 26 percent of active duty service members reported using mental health services in the past year. The Air Force Medical Readiness Agency Behavioral Health branch reported data from 2014 to 2019 showing the volume of clinical services delivered to active-duty members within Air Force mental health clinics increased by 32 percent.

Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center’s Mental Health Clinic is dedicated to ensuring that all service members receive effective care in a timely manner.
Lt. Col. John Reardon, 59th Medical Operations Squadron Mental Health flight commander, emphasizes the importance of risk assessment during patient contact, especially with new patients.
“Any patient contact, at minimum we're going to, especially with a new patient, assess risk,” Reardon said. “They will be asked about concerns related to self-harm, harm to others, or any acute needs requiring immediate attention.”
After assessing a patient’s needs, the mental health team creates a personalized care plan designed to yield positive results.

Depending on the patient’s needs, the clinic may recommend external resources such as Military One Source, Military and Family Life Counseling, the Chaplain, or embedded Mental Health providers within a unit. Alternatively, specialty mental health treatment within the Mental Health Clinic, including group or individual therapy and medication, may be recommended. The clinic prioritizes compassionate treatment aimed at improving functioning in crucial life areas.
To enhance access and efficiency, the Mental Health Clinic has developed a list of effective group therapy options based on the best available science and the most relevant concerns for service members.
“The intent of this initiative is to combine group therapy with individual therapy, addressing needs equally and effectively from a clinical intervention standpoint,” Reardon said.

Group therapies, according to the American Psychological Association, can be as effective as individual sessions in helping service members achieve their treatment goals. Reardon emphasized the universal susceptibility of people to potentially develop mental health concerns in the face of life's challenges and the importance of understanding that our emotional and behavioral states, both positive and negative, are our natural responses to one's circumstances and lived experiences.
“At times life can be difficult,” Reardon said. “There are going to be moments where we need to take a knee and get reconstituted.”
Master Sgt. Bryan Kimbrel, 59th Medical Operations Squadron Mental Health flight chief, explains how mental health is health and prioritizing yours is brave and responsible.
“It’s okay not to be okay,” Kimbrel added. “Our mental health technicians and providers are committed to matching patients with the appropriate level of care at the right time to address their needs and help them return to the mission.”
To discuss options for care, contact 210-292-7361 or visit the Mental Health Clinic in Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center on the third floor, Wing B.