JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. –
The 628th Medical Group’s mental health clinic team encourages service members, DOD employees and their families, to take care of their mental health while practicing physical distancing during the COVID-19 global pandemic.
Tech Sgt. Brett Chapman, 628th Medical Operations Squadron Mental Health Clinic alcohol and drug abuse prevention and treatment noncommissioned officer in charge, has noticed a rise in unique stressors associated with COVID-19 and said providing tips to maintain mental health is important.
“Everyone is under a lot of stress,” said Chapman. “They may be worried they might get the virus, or have a loved one that is at risk, financial worries, or worried about how long this is going to go on.”
Dr. Todd Magro, 628th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron psychiatrist contractor, said his team has been using different means to ensure patients continue to receive medical care.
“The biggest change I've seen is certainly using new technology to reach patients where they are, by Skype for other telehealth means, to get to patients, which is something that patients have been asking for, for a long time,” said Magro. “The circumstances are really emphasized for us to make those changes and especially with the support from our IT [information technology] personnel we've been able to reach a lot more people.”
The mental health clinic team here has also created multimedia products to encourage healthy habits and ways to practice positive mental health. They are also working on training staff digitally to ensure their personnel remain proficient.
“We've done a Facebook outreach video, two videos so far,” said Chapman. “One was done by myself a few weeks ago where we talked about stressors, things to look out for and how to maintain healthy coping mechanisms during this time. A lot of the outreach we're doing is trying to adapt to the times and with what's going on.”
Even though members of Team Charleston are distancing themselves to reduce health risks, there are steps that can be taken to stay healthy.
“Try to stick to a routine, things you've done before and try to do those to the best of your ability, things that are very basic, whether that be maintaining a good sleep cycle, or trying to eat healthy,” said Chapman. “Trying to maintain the probable proper levels of physical fitness might be difficult, but go for a walk or a run while maintaining proper physical distance. Also, we're talking about healthy coping mechanisms and you want to limit your alcohol use.”
Magro said the mental health clinic isn’t the only unit here that's transitioned to digital communication methods. Other services offered at JB Charleston have had to change operating procedures due to the pandemic, such as the chapel and other programs.
“A lot of churches are offering Zoom services,” said Magro. “That spiritual connection is different for everyone and staying connected to others is a big part of it.
While Team Charleston is physically distancing themselves, there are steps that all personnel are able to do to practice healthy physical, mental, social and mental health.
“You really want to focus on what you can do and not focus on what you can't control,” said Magro. “Try to sleep regular hours as best you can, eat healthy and maintain social connections in a safe way. But of course make time for fun and relaxation. Take care of yourself.”