ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. --
Mental Health Matters.
It is a critical part of every Airman’s medical readiness.
“Sometimes the battles Airmen deal with are not just on the ground or in the air, but in their minds,” said Capt. Donnell Clark, 78th Mental Health Clinic Psychiatric nurse. “It’s part of the holistic care of mind, body and spirit. Often neglected is the mind. You can’t see mental pain like you can see physical injuries.”
Clark’s daily mission is to treat what he describes as an Airman’s ‘invisible injuries.’
“As a young Airmen, I saw people suffering in silence and that motivated me to take this career path,” he added. “It was never promoted to us to go mental health if you are having problems.
“There was a reason why certain Airmen were always getting into fights or drinking too much, but they never sought out how to handle it,” Clark continued.
Clark believes an old negative stigma surrounding mental healthcare keeps some people in bondage.
“Unfortunately, there’s this mindset that an Airman could lose their job, security clearance, or even get kicked out of the military for getting psychological treatment, and that is far from the truth.”
At Robins there are many avenues for help.
The Mental Health Clinic is divided into three flights: Mental Health, the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment program, and Robins Family Advocacy program.
“Normalizing mental health is the biggest hurdle we face and the most important thing we need to do,” said Staff Sgt. Austin Dorsey, Mental Health Clinic noncommissioned officer in charge of ADAPT.
ADAPT is an outpatient program that provides services to active duty, guard and reserve members on active orders.
“We see some people once month and others weekly,” he added. “Our services are confidential. I’ve have talked to master sergeants, chiefs and seniors that have come throughout their careers, and they still made rank and still deployed.”
Dorsey said if psychological issues are left untreated they can spiral out of control into larger problems for an Airmen personally and professionally.
“If an Airman is in a state where they can’t focus, is depressed, or impaired that could negatively impact the Air Force and put their career in jeopardy,” said Dorsey. “However, being proactive and getting help will keep an individual in the military because steps are being taken to stay on track.”
“It is very rewarding when I have a breakthrough with a patient and get them where they need to be,” he continued. “Our care is like anything else. If you broke your leg, you are not going to deploy. You’re going to have to give yourself time to heal. Mental health is the same way; you can’t see those wounds. Our mission is to keep them on their mission.”