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NEWS | Dec. 12, 2018

Holiday blues: Let’s talk about it

By Airman 1st Class Monica Roybal 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

As a U.S. Army Soldier scrolls through his social media feed of happy family photos, friends reuniting at his old stomping grounds and his cousins preparing for their baby’s first Christmas, he drags his finger across the screen, remembering Christmases of years past, and he’s reminded he hasn’t even met his newest family member yet.

This Christmas is much different from the warm memories of celebrating the holidays at home. 

The military mission set does not always allow for trips home for the holidays. And for some service members, this may even be their first holiday season away from home. So it’s easy to understand how deeply some people may be affected by distance and loneliness.

The Joint Base Langley-Eustis Behavioral Health Clinics work to offer convenient and diversified services to active duty members battling personal hardships that may be intensified during the holiday season. 

“This can be a hard time of the year for a lot of people,” said Kathryn Warren, U.S. Army Medical Department Activity Behavioral Health Service Line social worker at McDonald Army Health Center. “We tend to serve a younger population in the military and it can be hard to break away from family traditions that we are used to being a part of. Reaching out to others is really important because not everyone has a good support system, especially in a new environment.”

Active duty members assigned to JBLE are encouraged to visit either Behavioral Health Clinics located on Fort Eustis and Langley Air Force Base. The clinics offer members a wide range of targeted services under the guidance of certified providers for: 

·     Depression

·     Anxiety

·     Post-traumatic stress disorder

·     Effects stemming from traumatic brain injuries

·     Individual or group therapy sessions

·     The Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment Program

·     Family Advocacy counseling for family violence, marriage enrichment, parenting classes, stress and anger management

·     The Substance Abuse Disorder Clinic

“It’s as easy as just walking in,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Kyle Lahtinen, 633rd Medical Operations Squadron mental health technician at Langley AFB. “We have a technician assigned to counsel individuals who walk in to seek treatment. The technician will talk with the individual about what brought them in, assess for safety and then tailor a treatment plan to fit their needs.”

According to Lahtinen, a spike in suicide rates can be observed not only during the holiday season, but also in the weeks following. Lahtinen said it may take some time for thoughts and feelings to sink in, so it’s important to remain vigilant of mood changes in oneself as well as changes in friends or coworkers. 

Both Lahtinen and Warren agreed that having open conversations about the topic is key in combating the stigma that surrounds seeking mental health services. 

“I think it’s important for people who have benefited from therapy to share their experience with others, as long as they are comfortable doing so,” Warren said. “Continued support for an individual as they go through therapy is incredibly important as well. We have to remember that they do not have a scarlet letter on them just because they needed a new set of tools to help through a difficult period.”

Although the behavioral clinics operate during normal business hours Monday through Friday, service members in need can go to the U.S. Air Force Hospital Langley emergency room where an on-call mental health technician will meet the member for support. 

“Reaching out to us for help is the same as someone signing up to work with a personal trainer,” Warren said. “If you’re trying to target a group of muscles, you’re going to go work with somebody who knows what they’re doing. And therapy works the same way. You don’t have to shoulder problems all by yourself.” 

For more information on behavioral health services, call 764-6840 or 314-7557.