JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Maryland –
Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall met with Air Force Medical Service leaders to discuss the Department of the Air Force’s approach to prioritizing post-traumatic stress disorder care and support during a visit to Joint Base Andrews June 24.
Air Force Deputy Surgeon General Maj. Gen. John J. DeGoes joined Kendall in meeting with medics from the 316th Medical Group this PTSD Awareness month to explain ongoing initiatives and new policies aimed at improving access to mental health care resources.
“We are piloting a targeted mental health care tactic at several bases. We are triaging and directing members to the appropriate support and care they need. Many people assume every patient needs a mental health appointment, but that is not always the case,” DeGoes said. “Some benefit from group therapy, while others may need a chaplain or a Military and Family Life Counselor. As a result, we are reducing wait times for mental health appointments and increasing access to all available mental health resources.”
Learning the necessary skills to manage stressors and knowing when to reach out for help are key to managing PTSD. In an effort to bring care closer to service members and families, the AFMS is expanding its Operational Support Team concept where providers rotate through units.
Within the remotely piloted aircraft community, PTSD prevention efforts include emotional intelligence training and strategies to manage the stressors that come with their unique operational environment.
“The most effective treatment has been trauma-focused therapies where providers use different approaches to help the patient process through the traumatic event,” said Lt. Col. Catherine Callender, deputy, Air Force Director of Psychological Health, Air Force Medical Readiness Agency. “Prolonged exposure therapy is an example; providers gradually help patients face the memories they have been avoiding and address thoughts that may be contributing to difficulties.”
The DAF continuously works to ensure all members diagnosed with PTSD receive the latest and most effective evidence-based care. Once diagnosed, up to 95% of those who receive, and complete treatment no longer meet the criteria for the disorder.
“Mental health care is health care, and the old misconception about a diagnosis being the end of someone’s career is outdated thanks to advancing support, medical research, and evolving policies,” Kendall said. “Every Airman and Guardian is critical to our mission and we need every member of the team at their best. One Team, One Fight.”
Kendall ended his visit by coining three Airmen and thanking all DAF mental health professionals for their dedication to their job and the mission.