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Here to Help: The Director of Psychological Health

Stephanie Grant, LCSW, director of psychological health at the 144th Fighter Wing in Fresno, California talks to an Airman in her office about the services that are offered by the DPH office. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Jason Sanchez)

Stephanie Grant, LCSW, director of psychological health at the 144th Fighter Wing in Fresno, California talks to an Airman in her office about the services that are offered by the DPH office. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Jason Sanchez)

FRESNO AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Calif. -- The overall goal of the National Guard Psychological Health Program is "Creating Strength through Resilience." Through this program, the Air Force demonstrates its commitment to the overall health of Airmen and their families, which promotes resiliency and ensures operational readiness.

Stephanie Grant, LCSW, joined the 144th Fighter Wing in June 2015 as the director of psychological health. She manages and promotes the base Psychological Health Program, which provides counseling, emotional support, and referral resources to quickly address challenges that Airmen or their family members may experience.

"When we think about the four pillars of health, we need to remember that part of our overall health is emotional and mental health," said Grant. "When a person is experiencing stress or difficulties, the DPH office is a safe place to explore options."

Grant said the Air Force recognizes the importance of making these services readily available. She also addressed one of the stigmas about psychological health. "Many of us have been taught that emotions are a weakness, but that idea just isn't true. Emotions are something that cannot be ignored. Our emotional needs are a key component to our overall health."

In the article "Air Force mental health programs encourage seeking help," available through www.af.mil, Col. (Dr.) John Forbes, the director of psychological health at the Air Force Medical Support Agency in Falls Church, Virginia, states that more than one in five Airmen have been seen in mental health or primary care for mental health related reasons. Most are not significantly impairing such as mild stress, a sleep problem, or anxiety. However, some are related to severe stress, post-traumatic stress, or depression.

In the same article, Lt. Col Wendy Travis, then chief of mental health policy and program evaluation with the Air Force Medical Operations Agency at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, said "the earlier you seek assistance for problems, the easier the problems are to treat and the less impact those problems have on you and those you love." Earlier contact and treatment is always encouraged to prevent stressors from becoming unmanageable. During recent years, more and more Airmen have taken advantage of mental health services. Appointments have increased from 18,858 in 2008 to 33,274 in 2013.

At the 144th FW, Grant emphasized, "it's more important than ever to pay attention to your mental health and emotional needs."  She cited that as the wing prepares to become fully operationally capable, it may be a difficult adjustment for many Airmen and their families.  "The increased level of deployments adds stress as well.  It's a critical time to provide support and referral resources."

During her six months working at the 144th Fighter Wing, Grant has learned a great deal about the base and its operations. "As a civilian, without a military background, it's been a great learning experience," said Grant. "I work with amazing men and women. Incredible work is done here." On her desk, Grant proudly displays the first military coin that was given to her. A chief master sergeant gave Grant the coin as a symbol of gratitude for successfully supporting an Airman though a difficult time. Grant's assistance helped to prevent the Airman's career from being negatively impacted by the stressful situation.

Air Force Chaplain Clayton Diltz, 144th FW Head Chaplain, credited Grant as a tremendous asset to the Wing: "Stephanie is an integral part of our overall health and wellness mission. We work as a team to offer the best council and guidance to our members and their families." He explained that as a civilian mental-health specialist, Grant offers a unique perspective for assistance that is required in today's military. "We work well together as professionals and friends on the same team."

"I am available to Airman across the wing," said Grant. Additionally, she wanted to ensure that Airmen are aware that her office is a safe place. "The same level of confidentiality is provided in my office that is provided by any licensed therapist."

The office of the Director of Psychological Health at the 144th FW is located in the Wing Building within the Chaplain's Office. Stephanie Grant is a full time employee of the 144th FW as is available during regular office hours. Her office phone number is (559) 453-5461 and her mobile phone number is (559) 260-5929. Her government email is stephanie.grant9.civ@mail.mil.

The DPH office is available to service members and their families. The office provides crisis counseling, emotional support, and referral resources to additional services. More information about psychological health services and resources are available at www.readyairmen.org and through the Ready Airmen mobile app.