WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Missouri --
Social distancing, quarantine, and self-isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic have drastically changed the way of life for many military service members and their families.
Right now, staying home and keeping a safe social distance from family and friends is an essential part of limiting the spread of the coronavirus. While it is important to protect ones’ physical health, it is also vital to protect an individual's mental health.
U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Johnathan Becker, 509th Medical Group Mental Health Clinic flight chief, described the difficulties military members and their families may have from self-quarantine and the stay-at-home order.
“Some people look at the quarantine from a stand-point of loss,” Becker said. “We as a military community are used to having more restrictive rules than the general population, but now we’re having even more of those freedoms taken away. It’s a time of uncertainty and loss.”
According to Becker, the effects of quarantine and isolation can cause boredom and the over-indulgence of things like alcohol consumption or spending too much time on social media. The effects of extended isolation and quarantine could also result in depression and anxiety.
“These are all normal reactions to situations like this,” Becker said. “The key is to develop a new routine and develop a new normal.”
Developing a new routine can mean anything from organizing your day by activities or times to keep the day from stagnating, or even compartmentalizing areas of your residence for certain activities or roles, like finding a place for a daily workout or a place to read.
Becker said there are also provided helpful techniques for dealing with the adverse side effects of self-quarantine or isolation. He recommends keeping busy and turning a quarantine or self-isolation into a more positive and productive time. Productivity can start simply by compartmentalizing a living space, into areas for different activities, or establishing three goals to reach. These goals can include pursuing education, reading books, learning new recipes, or whatever is essential to an individual.
“No one is alone,” Becker said. “Even if someone is quarantined in their home, they have a cellphone; call people you may not talk with often.”
Whiteman AFB has numerous helping agencies that have adapted their operations to meet Airmen and their family’s needs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Morgan Hildebrand, the 509th Bomb Wing community support coordinator, explained how many of these helping agencies are working together during the crisis.
“Instead of working as individual agencies, we are working in tandem to cover all areas of our community and support one another,” Hildebrand said.
For individuals who may be experiencing a lack of hope during this pandemic, Becker offers an optimistic point of view.
“We’re living in a world of uncertainty and change, but there will be an end date to this,” Becker said. “We will go back to a normal way of life. If someone is going through any type of struggle, this is not the end state. Please reach out to someone. Don't be afraid to talk it out.”
Airmen and families who are having trouble coping with the effects of self-quarantining can reach out to Chaplain services, Military and Family Life Councilors, and True North. Military OneSource and the Suicide Prevention Hotline are services provided over the phone as telehealth options. The Disaster Mental Health Hotline at 660-624-0551, allows callers to contact mental health professionals on base to discuss hardships the caller might be experiencing through undocumented sessions.
WAFB Chapel: 660-687-3653
True North: 660-687-3135 and 660-687-4804
Military OneSource: 1-800-342-9647
Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK)