Mental health: Essential to comprehensive fitness

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By Senior Airman Shane M. Phipps, 30th Space Wing Public Affairs / Published May 12, 2014


Maj. Crystal McLeod and Staff Sgt. Rebecca Michalek demonstrate relaxation training May 7, 2014, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. In addition to treating military related post-traumatic stress disorder, mental health has the capability to assist with a wide variety of ailments. McLeod is the 30th Medical Operations Squadron family advocacy officer. Michalek is the 30th MDOS mental health element NCO in-charge (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Shane Phipps)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AFNS) --

As Airmen begin to return from more than a decade of combat in the Middle East, and cope with the perils of war, distinguishing mental health clinics as valuable resources rather than detrimental career-enders is paramount.

Although it aims to promote overall mental fitness, negative reactions toward mental health have been common in the military.

"Often times, people are afraid to come to mental health because they feel like their careers will be affected but what we want people to know is the reason we exist is so they can stay on the front-lines and continue to do their jobs every day," said Maj. Crystal McLeod, from the 30th Medical Operations Squadron. "My goal is not to take things away or stop people from working, I need them to work. That's why we're here, so we can keep them in their duties."

In addition to treating military related post-traumatic stress disorder, mental health has the capability to assist with a wide variety of ailments.

"My primary role in the clinic is the family advocacy officer," McLeod said. "My job is not only to deal with things that may be perceived as being negative in family advocacy, but it is also to help the Vandenberg Air Force Base community understand that we offer lots of preventive services to help enhance families as well."

Due to the often sensitive nature of patients' psychological well-being, the dedicated personnel of the mental health clinic take their work extremely seriously.

"My goal is to make everyone who comes to our clinic, leave with a smile on their face," said Staff Sgt. Rebecca Michalek, the 30th MDOS mental health element NCO in-charge. "I want our service members to get the help they need not only for the mission, but for themselves."

While many military members remain wary of mental health clinics, McLeod is proud of how far her profession has come over the years.

"Back in the Vietnam days if you couldn't perform, you went home," McLeod said. "The stigma of mental health was very prevalent. Now, the military has resources available to help our service members continue with the mission during their times of need."

Mental health personnel maintain great job satisfaction and encourage anyone who is struggling with anything, to come through their doors.

"What keeps me in the uniform is not only my love for the Air Force, but what I do in the Air Force," McLeod said. "I really want people to know we are friendly, fun and have a great time in this clinic, yet we are very serious about treating our patients and getting them the care they need."

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