Let’s talk about it – May is Mental Health Awareness Month

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Adam R. Shanks
  • 6th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

Since 1949, May has been observed as National Mental Health Awareness Month. The month provides an opportunity to highlight resources for psychological health concerns and conditions.

The Air Force and its sister services are no different; this month emphasizes the importance of mental health across the Department of Defense.

“If someone breaks their ankle, they would usually go to a doctor to get it fixed before it got worse,” said Maj. John Pistello, the mental health element chief assigned to the 6th Medical Operations Squadron. “Why not treat mental health the same?”

Pistello’s comparison shines light on what affects mental health the most; the stigma.

“Too many people believe they can solve their psychological problems on their own,” said Pistello. “What ends up happening is the problem only gets worse until it becomes a much more severe problem.

“Mental health over the past few years has had a negative connotation attached to it, but it’s a month like this that helps open up the dialogue on what we truly do.”

The Mental Health department provides service members and their families a chance to share anything that bothers them. The problem can be big or small; mental health can assist in any emotional issue.

“Commonly, mental health is associated with severe depression, suicidal thoughts and post-traumatic stress disorder,” said Pistello. “However, this isn’t always the case. We give those patients our utmost attention, but it’s not the only issue we face.”

Pistello explained that the more common issues include stress management, anxiety and even sleeping problems and family concerns; the list goes on.

“It’s our job to help others overcome any mental obstacle,” said Pistello. “The Air Force is constantly researching and implementing new, proven methods of treatment to allow us to help in any situation.”

However, one question lingers, “Will going to mental health affect my career?”

“The answer is yes and no,” said Pistello. “Certain career fields can be affected by a mental health problem, but it’s normally because of something like chronic depression.

“This is why seeking medical attention when the problem is minor is extremely important, because a small bump in the road mentally pales in comparison to a huge mountain of stress and anxiety.”

First Lt. Patricia Browne, a licensed clinical social worker assigned to the 6th MDOS, explains that everything a patients discusses is kept completely confidential.

“We do not share what is discussed during our appointments,” said Browne. “We are not allowed to disclose the info unless the patient is a threat to themselves or someone else.”

Another tip the mental health professionals here want to share is to seek the help you need as soon as you believe it’s becoming a problem. There is no limit to amount of visits an individual can have.

“We understand that many of the issues are personal, and people tend to keep things to themselves,” explained Pistello. “But we’re always here to listen, and help lead anyone in the right direction with a guiding hand, no strings attached.”