ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. --
Seeing sparkling decorations and singing jolly songs may warm some hearts during the holidays, but for others, the mere thought of the season brings sadness.
For people who have depression, the holidays can be overwhelming.
Chaplain (Capt.) William McMullan, who has been on staff with the Robins Air Force Base Chapel a year and a half, said the number one thing anyone dealing with depression should know is that this is not a battle to fight alone.
“You need to allow others the opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to your wellbeing,” he said. “The feeling of helplessness and hopelessness is only temporary. With the right amount of time, the proper resources and necessary support, there is no difficulty that you cannot make it through.”
The base chapel offers counseling and spiritual support, among other services to active-duty Airmen. For those the chapel does not directly serve, the staff offers spiritual accommodations to the best of their ability.
McMullan said while depression is a medical issue that needs treatment by a health professional, one’s spiritual faith can certainly help in dealing with the condition.
“Faith works as a complement to the medical treatment of depression, but not in place of medical treatment,” he said. “However, with the presence of faith, hope takes root and gives you the courage to not give up. As you gain experience with battling depression, it becomes more familiar to you, and you will not over exaggerate the negative implications.”
McMullan said in most cases, things are never as bad as people imagine them to be.
“We need perspective through time and treatment to understand there is always a way forward no matter how bleak the circumstances,” he said.
The chaplain said it’s important to stay spiritually connected.
“Depression has the tendency to make you feel isolated and alone,” McMullan said. “However, when you realize you are not alone and that you have meaning that connects with others, then you are more likely to seek help from those that you feel that connection with.”
To make an appointment with a base chaplain, call 478-926-2821. The base chapel is located at 655 Ninth St., Building 769 at Robins.
The base chapel is not the only resource people can turn to in times of need.
All civilian employees, including non-appropriated fund, Guard and Reserve employees, and their household members, can get help for mental health and other needs 24 hours a day, seven days a week through the Air Force Civilian Employee Assistance Program, Carolina Perez, a licensed professional counselor and field consultant with the Air Force’s civilian EAP and Work Life Program, said the EAP continues to offer individual, family and couples short-term counseling via telephone and video conference, as well as supervisor consultations via video and telephone.
EAP is currently not offering in-person appointments with the on-site field consultants at Robins due to the pandemic. Appointments are either via telephone or video.
Eligible EAP participants can access the program’s services by calling EAP at 1-866-580-9078 and through the EAP website at www.afpc.af.mil/EAP.
Employees can now schedule a counseling session from the website by viewing the availability of the onsite field consultant.
Heather Watkins, a licensed marriage and family therapist field consultant with the Air Force Employee Assistance Program and Work Life Program, said EAP has increased services during the pandemic by offering more webinars and increased availability of phone and web-based sessions.
Watkins said the program offers more than counseling.
“EAP also has many other services that may be helpful, especially during times of difficulty, such as legal and financial consultations and work life services to find local resources for moving, child care, elder care, home repairs, adoption, pet ownership, food pantries and more,” she said.
While some people may shy away from seeking help, Perez said there’s no need for feeling that way.
“With the pandemic and the holiday season, a person may be experiencing an increase in symptoms of depression and feelings of loneliness,” she said. “You may feel embarrassed or hesitant to ask for help. It is important to understand that you are not alone and what you are going through currently, many others are also experiencing. There is nothing shameful or embarrassing about reaching out and talking to someone about how you are feeling.”
EAP is completely free and confidential.
“EAP is here to help you and your household members 24 hours, seven days a week, 365 days of the year,” Perez said. “No situation is too big or too small.”
Likewise, the 78th Medical Group Mental Health Clinic, is a resource that active-duty Airmen, in addition to Guard or Reserve members on active orders, can turn to for help.
Capt. Luke Davidiuk, a clinical psychologist in the 78th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron’s Mental Health Flight, said the clinic has a variety of ways to help people dealing with depression.
“Our clinic offers a variety of evidence-based approaches focused on behavior modification and healthier lifestyles,” he said. “Individual therapy with a psychologist or social worker, ongoing medication management from one of our prescribing providers, or a combination of both, are often found to help reduce symptoms of depression and get a person back to feeling like their normal selves again.”
The Mental Health Clinic offers both in-person and virtual options for treatment depending on an individual patient’s preferences and needs.
“If an individual elects to meet in person, we ask that they wear a mask to the appointment,” Davidiuk said. “If an individual elects to meet virtually either using a video-teleconference platform or via telephone, there are a couple of additional administrative items that will be addressed at the first appointment.”
A lot has changed in mental health through the years, Davidiuk said.
“In the past, mental health treatment was viewed as a way to reduce symptoms, but there has been a shift recently toward positive psychology and a focus on helping a person flourish rather than just survive,” he said. “In addition to helping reduce depression, treatment in our clinic can help a person successfully navigate interpersonal relationships with family or friends over the holidays, find ways to enjoy this season despite COVID-19 restrictions, and thrive overall by sharpening self-care and resiliency practices.”
Davidiuk said just like treating a sprained ankle, early intervention is also key when dealing with mental health issues.
“Early help-seeking traditionally leads to better outcomes,” he said. “It is much easier to manage and effectively treat mild to moderate depression and reduce the impact these difficulties have on a person’s life soon after they develop. At times, if a problem is left untreated, it can worsen and significantly impact an individual’s personal life, career, and/or lead to potential safety issues like substance abuse and thoughts of wanting to harm self or others.”
People can be seen in the Mental Health Clinic in a few ways. The patient can get a referral through his or her primary care doctor. Patients can also be directed to meet with a mental health provider in primary care through the Behavioral Health Optimization Program. If this provider determines additional specialty care is needed, a referral will be placed to the Mental Health Clinic. In addition to these, individuals can call the Mental Health Clinic directly at 478-327-8398 or walk into the clinic at 655 7th Street Building 700A at Robins.
Davidiuk said if an individual chooses the third option, they will be triaged to determine the most appropriate level of care that is needed.
While the Mental Health Clinic primarily treats active-duty Airmen, as well as Guard or Reserve members on active orders, dependents of active-duty members and military retirees can be seen in the Mental Health Clinic for a one-time crisis evaluation.
Dependents will receive a referral for ongoing care in the local community, Davidiuk said.
Whether it’s the base chapel, the EAP or the Mental Health Clinic, there is a resource at Robins that’s available to help.
“The main thing is that resiliency is about understanding you are not alone and that there are tremendous resources and support available,” McMullan said. “In the midst of hard times, often we just need to reach out and get help. Asking for help and seeking help is a crucial aspect of being resilient.”