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177th Fighter Wing Opens Mental Health and Wellness Center for its Airmen

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Kevin Ray Salvador
  • 177th Fighter Wing

ATLANTIC CITY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, NJ -- The 177th Fighter Wing opened a Mental Health and Wellness Center (MHAWC) for its airmen here, March 4, to provide prevention, outreach and education for its members.

According to Tech Sgt. Ryan Bullock, a mental health technician with the MHAWC, the goal for the MHAWC is to assist with retention and resource management for all Airmen during monthly Unit Training Assemblies with an open-door policy.

“We want to be able to be a support for our leadership on base as well so that they can see us as a way to help their members and also to help them be better leaders and so that they have that support as well,” said Tech Sgt. Chae Reid, a section chief with the MHAWC. “They can come and talk to us and see what we can do for them from a leadership command perspective and then we can assist their members as well.”

The support that the MHAWC provides includes pre-deployment preparation, coping skills, and stress management. This support is critical to readiness and mission accomplishment.

“I think it's important to have it for multiple reasons: help to increase morale, help to look at resiliency, help to prevent addiction issues, and any number of things to help reduce the kind of mental stress mode that people have,” said Capt. Joshua Houseman, a clinical psychologist with the MHAWC. “We're here to offer help and support, as well as to also give referrals, if necessary, if that's something that they need or want.”

Although mental health treatment in the military tends to be stigmatized, according to an article produced by AP News, the National Guard has worked to reduce the suicide rates through outreach and other changes; resulting in a decline in suicide rates.

“I just want everybody to know that we're here and that it's not a bad thing to come talk to somebody. I know there's a lot of stigma out there,” said Houseman. “This is not about ending people's careers. This is about trying to enhance them.”