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    Serving those who serve others: behavioral health and spirituality’s role to encourage resiliency

    US Air Force behavioral health teams help Airmen manage stress to encourage resiliency

    Photo By Master Sgt. Helen Miller | U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Susan Kicker, center, a mental health technician and member...... read more read more



    Story by Cpl. Samantha Hall 

    Defense Department Support to FEMA COVID-19       

    TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, CALIFORNIA-- The stress of working in the midst of a global pandemic can take its toll on service members, especially those working on the front lines. More than 150 airmen in COVID Theater Hospital-1 (CHT-1) have responded to a shortage of healthcare workers at the direction of U.S. Army North.
    Religious affairs programs and behavioral health teams are supporting airmen integrated into local hospitals throughout California. The airmen are members of CTH-1, supporting healthcare workers in eight hospitals.
    U.S. Air Force Maj. Chelsea Arnold, a clinical social worker, and Tech Sgt. Susan Kicker, a mental health technician assigned to CTH-1 from the 60th Medical Group, Travis Air Force Base, Calif., have formed one such team to, providing behavioral health services to airmen serving Adventist Health Lodi Memorial Hospital in Lodi and Dameron Hospital in Stockton.
    “Most of the members that attend our classes have never dealt with this much suffering in their jobs,” said Kicker. “It can be very hard to deal with.”
    “Some of the big stressors that we’ve seen are the death and sickness that people are dealing with,” said U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Mark Habluetze, a chaplain from Offutt Air Force Base, Neb.
    The behavioral health teams and religious service teams have organized a variety of social activities to battle the unique challenges of providing aid to COVID-stressed civilian hospitals. These include guided meditation, painting classes, yoga, hikes, and behavioral health check-ins.
    “You need to gather with others dealing with the same thing, not just go sit in your room alone at night,” Kicker said.

    U.S. Air Force Capt. Bridget Caulkins, a physician with CTH-1, has attended these events and stressed their importance.
    “Take care of yourself so you can take care of others,” Caulkins said.
    During one of these events, Arnold led a guided meditation before Kicker guided the group through painting a field of poppy blooms at sunset. The airmen sat together as they brushed swatches of yellows, purples and reds into a serene landscape.
    “It’s a great way to get together and manage stress,” Kicker said.
    Arnold uses her own expertise in yoga to lead sessions of meditative movement for the airmen. According to an article by the National Institutes for Health, studies have shown that yoga, in addition to strengthening the body, can help improve general wellness by relieving stress and improving mental and emotional health.
    Caulkins, a physician, is an enthusiastic participant in these yoga practices.
    “The yoga class really helps manage stress and I preach this in my own practice,” Caulkins said.
    Arnold also organizes behavioral health check-ins to provide a simple means of support: someone to listen.
    “We sit in the atrium of the hotels where the providers live and are just there if someone wants to talk,” Arnold said.
    The impact of the behavioral health team’s efforts is easy to see as the health providers came to and from their duty stations in civilian hospitals.
    “Many of them walk by, smile and wave,” said Arnold. “They say, ‘We are so happy to have you here. Just in case.’ It has been a very positive reaction."
    U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Nicholas Monnett, a religious affairs airman from the 325th Fighter Wing based in Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., also provided a listening ear for the airmen coming to and from the front lines of Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage.
    “I’m there if someone needs to de-stress, complain about the day, get that burden off their chest,” said Monnett.
    According to Habluetzel, religious affairs strives to cover the spiritual needs of all people.
    “You’re dealing with people from all walks of life, all faiths, no faith,” said Habluetzel. “You’re giving people spiritual care no matter where they came from.”
    He said that communication and support from others is a key part in this spiritual care.
    “We want to show these providers how to deal with stress, build coping mechanisms. We want to show them how to have a spiritual connection with each other,” said Habluetzel.
    The best way to respond to these crazy times and remain resilient is to take care of ourselves so we can help each other, according to Arnold.
    “That can make all the difference.”


    Date Taken: 08.25.2020
    Date Posted: 08.27.2020 09:34
    Story ID: 376760

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