Director of psychological health is here to help - off the record Published March 2, 2021 By Tech. Sgt. Bob Jennings 442d Fighter Wing WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- Everybody occasionally needs a helping hand, an ear to bend, or even a shoulder to cry on. Historically, military members have been expected to “suck it up,” “soldier on,” and generally not have emotions, because going to mental health “could be damaging to your career.” As a result, Airmen have hurt themselves or others because they’ve buried their issues and didn’t have a way to release them. Carol Ameline, the Director of Psychological Health for the 442d Fighter Wing, is the human equivalent of that release. A mother of three adult children and grandmother of five, Carol has a wealth of experience in helping people work through things. After graduating with a Master’s Degree in Social Work, Carol worked for 10 years with private adoption and foster care agencies in Washington State, and then four years in an inpatient psychiatric hospital. There, she obtained the necessary clinical hours, and passed the rigorous examination, required to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. After directing a pilot program at Lackland Air Force Base to provide intensive outpatient mental healthcare to members transitioning out of – or hoping to avoid – inpatient care, she spent seven years working in the Lackland AFB Family Advocacy Program, working with families experiencing domestic violence and providing education, safety assessments, and treatment where necessary. She is also available to leadership for consultation or educational workshops on topics such as: managing anger, relationships, self-esteem, worry and anxiety, happiness, communication, grief and loss, emotion management, stress, and many other topics. An LCSW is a particular kind of mental health professional who takes a holistic approach to care. Instead of simply examining a client’s internal psychology, the LCSW also looks at what’s happening around the client, understanding that societal and environmental factors often play a major role in a person’s well-being. “Clinical social workers are able to provide mental health treatment and also try to connect people to other resources to help address other factors that are affecting their daily lives,” Carol said. Then, in 2019, she joined the 442 FW as the DPH, in which role she utilizes her unique education, knowledge, training and expertise to increase individual, unit and Wing readiness and help Airmen and their families maximize psychological health, resilience and well-being. She also doesn’t take notes. “As Wing DPH, I can offer off-record counseling to Wing members and their dependents to include individual and couples counseling, conflict resolution, resiliency building, crisis interventions, and command advisement on psychological wellness,” she said. She also offers leadership or peer consultation to help connect people with resources in their local area. But the DPH’s services aren’t, by any means, restricted to the reservist. She can also meet with spouses, partners, and children. “When we first meet,” she said, “we will talk about what is happening in your life that brought you into my office, and then we come up with a plan, together, as to next steps.” Those steps might involve more sessions meeting with Carol, or a referral to something that might meet the client’s needs better, such as the Department of Veterans Affairs, online counseling, or working with leadership to obtain a referral to the Whiteman Mental Health Clinic for a more in-depth assessment. As part of the Air Force’s ongoing effort to remove the stigma associated with seeking mental health treatment, all of Carol’s counseling services are provided off the record. She doesn’t make any notes that get added to a member’s medical records, UNLESS the member is expressing thoughts of harm to themselves, others, or the mission. She is also a mandated reporter of suspected child abuse or neglect, or domestic violence. Just to go in talk, though? Everything is kept confidential. The only way someone would know about a meeting with Carol would be if they saw a member walking into her office. Of course, if you’re worried about that, Carol’s office is located in a tiny corner of building 44 (room A-119), and she’s happy to meet with a client anywhere on Whiteman AFB. “Some people do better talking and walking around outside rather than sitting in a chair,” Carol said. “I’m open to what members feel more at ease with, if that’s what it takes to connect with me.” Walk-ins are welcome, but it’s best to make an appointment. Carol feels it’s important to members to know that she has a relaxed and open personality, and that when members come to see her, it’s strictly voluntary. “I feel grateful that people trust me enough to share their hurts and pains,” Carol said. “I consider my office to be sacred ground where people can come and feel safe and not alone in their stress. Stop by just to say hello! Even if you don’t need help, someone you know will. If you have already met me, it’s easier to encourage someone else to contact me.” If you would like to make an appointment with Carol, you can call her office at 660-687-3484, or on her work cell at 660-909-3911. Or, if you’re not quite ready to step in and speak to her personally, here are a few other resources you can try: InTransition is a free referral service offered by the military. This service does not provide counseling, but it connects reservists or veterans to an agency that will best fit their needs. Anyone can self-refer 24/7 by calling 800-424-7877. Dependents (adults and children) and leadership can call the Psychological Resource Center 24/7 for any referrals or consultations they may need at 866-966-1020. Reservists or family members can also self-refer to Give an Hour for free counseling by visiting giveanhour.org/military/. Arts and Civilians can get free counseling and support (virtual, texting or phone) through the Employee Assistance Program (EPA) by calling 866-580-9078. Please remember that none of these resources are emergency services. In crisis, reservists, veterans or family members can call the VA Crisis Line at 800-273-8255. Call 911 in case of emergency. “What aches my heart,” she said, “is that most people wait until they are in a real mess, emotionally, before they push themselves to come talk with me.” She encourages to people to come to her sooner, rather than later.