Social distancing got you stressed? Helping agencies at Incirlik offer support

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Andrea Salazar
  • 39th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

In stressful times of the COVID-19 global pandemic, it can be difficult for many service members and their family members to feel mentally strong and connected. With Incirlik Air Base already being a remote assignment, it can present even more challenges. 

Many helping agencies across the base, like the mental health clinic and the chapel, offer services to support those who feel overwhelmed with the current crisis.

“During this pandemic, some of us have a little more spare time than usual and in this time, it may present an opportunity to grow in some things you may have always put off,” said Maj. Jolyn Tatum, 39th Medical Operations Squadron mental health officer. “Some of these might be reading books and resources to improve yourself as a person or to improve your personal relationships with loved ones.” 

The mental health clinic not only offers emotional support but also offers a variety of books to give out for free. 

“We have plenty of books and although people can’t come into the building to get them, we can meet with them and hand these books out,” said Tatum. 

“We recognize that this is a unique time; for some this can be easy, while for others this can be extremely stressful. Honor where you’re at and understand it’s okay,” she continued. “If you feel like you need help, please reach out. We’re now open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. We also stood up our Disaster Mental Health Team which consists of mental health, chaplains and resilience trainers. This is a way to reach out and what we call ‘psychological first-aid.’ It’s not clinical or therapy, we don’t write anything down; it’s just another avenue for members to touch base with someone who can offer support. It is a way to use these resources in a forum that is not going to go on your record.” 

While physical distancing is important to limiting the spread of the coronavirus, it is still vital to connect with loved ones and build on spiritual and mental resilience. 

“Even though we have physical distancing measures in place, there are still ways we can stay socially connected,” said Maj. Paul Amaliri, 39th Air Base Wing deputy chaplain. “Thanks to today’s technology, we can take this time to reach out to friends and family we may haven’t spoken to in a while.”

Amaliri also emphasized the importance of recognizing and coping with grief. 

“When it comes to grief, it’s not just about losing a loved one. Grief can be caused by so many things -- events being canceled or not being able to hang out with friends as usual,” said Amaliri. “All these small things kept some people going and not being able to do these things can be difficult to cope with. But it is imperative to know that this will not last forever and it will pass. When it comes to spiritual resilience, the chapel offers all types of tips and services.”

Recently, the chapel became available through the WhatsApp smartphone application as a way for Airmen at Incirlik AB to easily contact them. 

“Not only do we have the WhatsApp ability, but we offer virtual worship services every Sunday through YouTube, as well as at the chapel,” said Amaliri. “We are physically distant but don’t have to be socially separated. Let’s continue positive thinking and maintaining friendships and personal relationships that aid our spiritual resilience.” 

The base’s master resilience trainers have also stepped up to offer tips and additional support to members on base. 

“Being resilient is about being a stronger person and being content with yourself by yourself, which means spending more time than usual alone than you are used to,” said Staff Sgt. Trevor Forsythe, 39th Contracting Squadron member and master resilience trainer. “The three skills I recommend that can help people get through the next few weeks or months are gratitude, mindfulness and goals.” 

At the forefront of these skills requires some positive thinking.

“Gratitude is basically focusing on the positive things happening in your own life rather than dwelling on the negative,” said Forsythe. “Mindfulness is being aware of your own thoughts and staying present in the moment and focused on your goals and the things you can control”. 

With self-care in mind, you lessen the impacts stress and isolation can place on your mental well-being.

“Overall, we’ll all be tougher mentally at the other end of this situation.”

In addition to wing resources, Airmen can also utilize Military OneSource and the Military Helpline to access various telehealth options.

Military OneSource can be reached at 1-800-342-9647, and the Military Helpline can be reached at 1-888-457-4838 or by texting “MIL1” to 839863