Mental health flight offers ways to de-stress

  • Published
  • By Steve Hoffmann
  • 81st Training Wing Public Affairs
Everybody already knows there are bad witches. But from The Wizard of Oz, we learn that there are good witches too. When Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, shows up on the scene in her big bubble, she brings the party to Munchkinland. Why? Because Dorothy's house has just landed on the Wicked Witch of the East, thereby bringing an end to years of Munchkin slavery. Ding Dong, the wicked witch is dead!

According to Staff Sgt. Abbey Brown, noncommissioned officer in charge of the 81st Medical Operations Squadron's mental health flight, this scene is not unlike what people experience with stress. There's bad stress and good stress and ways to manage both.

"Stress can be a good thing -- it's not all bad," said Brown. "It's known as eustress and it can help motivate us. But when it becomes distress, that's bad."

According to Brown, distress can manifest itself in numerous ways. Hives, achy joints and muscles, insomnia and physical illness are some of the more common ways bad stress can rear its wickedness.

Fortunately, Keesler's mental health flight offers some help. They currently offer two group classes for those seeking to find ways to drop the house on the wicked witch of stress. The anger management class meets on Tuesdays for four weeks. The healthy thinking class is a hybrid of both stress management and depression management.

"Healthy thinking is a 'glass half full' class," explained Brown. "Many people, depending on their current circumstances or the environment in which they were raised, have trouble seeing the glass as half full. They can't see their problem or situation in a different light. The healthy thinking class teaches ways to find the best in a situation, in other people and ourselves."

Group classes are available to anyone who has access to the base. One-on-one therapy and counseling is available to active-duty members only.

Additionally, the mental health element has been getting a lot of requests from various units and squadrons to go out and do stress management briefings.

"The Air Force's big push these days has been resiliency," noted Brown.

"Anytime you can tell someone that the things they're feeling are normal, this is what's going on in their life and these are some of the things they can do to feel better, you're helping them be a better person."

Brown reports that their efforts are starting to have an impact, particularly with the air traffic control career field, where there's been a tendency towards higher washout rates.

"If you tell someone up front what to expect, areas where they might encounter stress, and how it might affect them, there's a good chance it'll have less of an impact on them," said Brown.

As a result, the mental health clinic at the Triangle has seen an increase in walk-ins from students seeking one-on-one counseling and therapy.

Brown also notes that with the holidays approaching, homesickness is more frequent. She encourages students to seek help.

"So much of stress management is knowing yourself and knowing how much is too much," said Brown. "You can never guess what's going to stress somebody out. The trick is to try and see things from their perspective, meet them where they are and help walk them out of it."

For more information on stress management, call the mental health flight, (228)376-0385.