Robins EAP offers help to civilian employees in crisis

  • Published
  • By Wayne Crenshaw
  • 78 ABW/PA
When speaking to a group of Robins employees recently, Jamie Tillit asked how many of them had heard of the Employee Assistance Program.

She didn't see many hands go up.

With the time of year at hand when a rash of suicides occurred in 2008, Tillit wants people to know that there is free help available for civilian employees or their immediate family members who may be having personal issues.

Tillit is one of two licensed therapists in EAP. The other is Lynn Irvine. Although they have both been busy lately, they want to make sure everyone knows they are there if anyone needs help.

"Even though we are swamped, if there is anyone out there who needs our help, we want them to call us," she said.

Contact with them is strictly confidential.

EAP is provided by Federal Occupational Health, which offers health services exclusively to federal employees. In addition to individual counseling, it also provides financial and legal services, education and training, supervisor and risk management consultation, and critical incident response.

In one of example of the training it provides, Tillit said that after a couple of workers got into a heated argument recently, she and Irvine were called in to give a conflict-resolution class.

Most of what they do, however, involves short-term individual counseling. Those who need additional counseling are referred to other community agencies.

The most common problem they see, she said, is relationship issues. That has been cited as common thread in the eight suicides here last year.

Another common problem is substance and alcohol abuse, which often intertwines with relationship issues.

Tillit said it's hard to measure the success rate of counseling, but she said overall most people who come in benefit from it.

"I think I help a lot with some people," she said. "The person who comes in is the one who has to do the work, and some people really don't want to change. They want other people to change."

Despite how busy they have been, she said anyone who calls needing help can expect to have an appointment within a week. If it's an emergency, she said, they will make time to meet with that person the same day.

EAP is one of several organizations on base that are a part of the You Matter anti-suicide campaign at Robins. The campaign kicked off this year after Robins' suicide rate spiked in 2008. Most of the suicides occurred from August to December. This year three base employees have committed suicide.

Tillit said she isn't sure if the recent uptick in clients is related to the You Matter campaign and the additional awareness of the services offered. She hasn't seen many people who specifically expressed thoughts of suicide, but depression is a common problem among the people she sees.

She also urged anyone who believes that a co-worker needs help to encourage that person to call EAP. Signs to look out for, she said, include changes in habits and routine, such as someone who usually gets to work on time, but starts to come in late, or someone who is usually friendly, but begins to withdraw.

She puts it in simple terms when explaining why people who may be reluctant to seek help should call her or Irvine.

"It's a confidential service provided free of charge and it can help you," she said.