JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii -- The first Holistic Health Team mindfulness class was held at the 613th Air Operations Center, Oct. 16, 2019.
Mindfulness is defined as a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations.
“Mindfulness is actually a performance enhancement skill,” said Maj. Kirsten DeLambo, 15th Medical Group mental health flight commander. “Mindfulness training has been shown to be effective among professional athletes, Navy SEALs, special [operations] units, and corporate executives. It has been shown to improve concentration, response times, decision making, and to reduce stress.”
In the short term, DeLambo would like to see participants feeling more relaxed as a result of using an hour to take care of themselves.
“In the long run, however, the class is a starting point for living in the present and seeing things more clearly. When someone can practice mindfulness in this way, it can lead to being more focused, a better communicator, and a better decision-maker,” said DeLambo. “This has long-lasting effects for being ready to meet mission requirements, as well as being happier with a life outside of work.”
The Holistic Health Team is comprised of representatives from the helping agencies and medical community to include mental health, flight medicine, health promotions, Sexual Assault Response Coordinator, chaplain, and violence prevention integrator.
“My goal, that I think we have accomplished, is to be a presence and a trusted resource so that we can inform, educate, and be available for situations where members may have otherwise felt alone in figuring it out for themselves,” said DeLambo.
The team visits the 613th AOC and the 56th Air and Space Communications Squadron twice monthly in order to reduce the stigma associated with getting help and to provide health and safety information to unit members.
“As evidenced during walkabouts and an anonymous survey, a majority of unit members reported good morale, job satisfaction, and cohesiveness,” said DeLambo. “However, sleep problems, mental health difficulties, and burnout were also commonly reported. To address these problems a sleep skills class was offered and was well-received.”
The idea for the HHT creation came from an initiative that originated out of Hurlburt Field, Florida.
“The program was designed to bring care to our warfighters in the form of embedded support teams,” said Master Sgt. Tonya Poole, 613th AOC and 56th ACOMS first sergeant. “After hearing about this idea, I immediately fell in love with it and began working diligently to bring this concept into our organization.”
Poole believes proactively seeking help for yourself is a sign of strength and maturity.
“I always make sure to emphasize and reinforce the fact that simply seeking mental health care does not typically have negative impacts on a security clearance,” said Poole. “I think what does cause issues with a clearance is when someone neglects an issue that they are having and allows it to manifest into something that negatively impacts their duty performance, trustworthiness, or reliability.”
The Holistic Health Team name was chosen so that members know that it's not just about mental health or any of the other entities involved, it's a holistic approach to wellness.
“I always tell people who are on the fence about perusing mental health care, ‘You wouldn't lose your clearance if you went to see the doctor about a fractured ankle,’” said Poole. “Your mental health is no different than your physical health; when you have an issue that is causing pain or preventing you from reaching your full potential, you must seek the help you need.”
DeLambo urges those that may be struggling with an issue to not try and fight it alone.
“You may not require or desire formal mental health treatment, which is completely okay,” said DeLambo. “Instead, talking to a wingman, loved one, co-worker, or friend can make a big difference in feeling less alone, better understood, and ultimately less troubled by the situation.”
Classes like these help provide Airmen with information and tools to increase their confidence and competence in their ability to seek help for themselves and others