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Busting the mental health myths

The Mental Health clinic offers many services to Airmen who are struggling. Don’t let a stigma keep you from seeking help. (U.S. Air Force graphic by Senior Airman Cassie Whitman)

The Mental Health clinic offers many services to Airmen who are struggling. Don’t let a stigma keep you from seeking help. (U.S. Air Force graphic by Senior Airman Cassie Whitman)

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska --

A few months ago, I was diagnosed with a chronic pain disorder called fibromyalgia. Not only does it affect my body, but it can also affect my mental health state.

When my doctor referred me to mental health, I was slightly concerned. Thoughts ran through my head of the common myths associated with going to the dreaded “Mental Health Clinic.”

“Will this kill my career?”

“Am I going to be targeted now that I am seeking treatment with mental health?”

 “Will everyone know?”

The simple answer to all of these questions is no. There is no reason you should be afraid of seeking help or counsel.  

When I made my appointment, I was nervous. When I got there and sat in the waiting room, waiting to be seen, I was terrified.

What I found was nothing like I anticipated. There was no creepy fog coming out from under the door, no terrifying monster with a red stamp saying “discharge” to put on my record, not even a frown on the face of the captain that greeted me.

With a welcoming smile and a handshake, I was escorted back to his office, where a couch awaited me. He explained everything, gathered some basic information, and turned around to face me. He didn’t interrogate me, he simply asked me about me.

After an hour of talking filled with laughter and tears, saying everything and anything that came to mind, he simply listened, recommended a great book to read, and we made another appointment. After an hour of talking, this man had put me so at ease with all the thoughts running around in my mind, that I felt comfortable enough to be seen again.

I’ve went back several times, each time being a little further apart from the last. He assured me my thoughts were normal, the stressors in my life were normal, and I was normal.

Until now, no one knows I went to mental health unless I told them. But I wanted to speak out, I wanted to let people know you shouldn’t fear seeking counsel from professionals who want nothing more than to see you succeed.

Mental health is not out to kill careers. They are simply professionals who know a thing or two about life’s sometimes difficult situations, and aim to help Airmen be in the best shape they can be to get their mission done.