WIESBADEN, Germany - The shift from face-to-face relations to virtual interactions due to social distancing has affected millions around the world. The consequences of the pandemic go beyond medical ailments; fear, anxiety and concern are raising in the population at large.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the stress caused by the pandemic may possibly lead to increased health risks such as changes in sleep or eating patterns, difficulty sleeping or concentrating, worsening of chronic health problems, worsening of mental health conditions, increased use of tobacco, and/or alcohol and other substances. Although the risks may plague most societies, military training and lifestyles may have prepared Service Members for the current environment.
“Members of the military are used to adapting, they're used to different ways of communicating especially overseas,” said Dr. Jaime Moore, chief of Behavioral Health at Wiesbaden Army Health Clinic. “Service Members know how to maintain contacts with people virtually, so they actually have adapted very quickly.”
Nearly two decades of war have readied military personnel for the current virtual environment caused by the need for physical distancing and, at times, quarantine and isolation.
According to the World Health Organization, the main psychological impact to date, due to COVID-19, is elevated rates of stress or anxiety. As new measures and impacts are introduced – especially quarantine and its effects on many people’s usual activities, routines or livelihoods – levels of loneliness, depression, harmful alcohol and drug use, and self-harm or suicidal behavior are also expected to rise.
To combat this threat, providers at the WAHC Behavioral Health Department have continued treating patients through whatever means possible.
“Behavioral health is primarily a face-to-face business. We do the vast majority of our work face to face. So it was a big shift to pivot to teleworking,” said Moore, a Savage, Minnesota native. “We immediately moved all care to virtual health and just really shifted to a new way of delivering behavioral healthcare. People were concerned that that it would be problematic, but we maintained almost the same number of patient encounters.”
The behavioral health mission at WAHC is to support active-duty Service Members and their families, and support the readiness of the units through individual psychotherapy, group therapy, medication management, psychological assessment, command consultation, preventative briefings, and education. The clinic contains a staff of 25 including nurse practitioners, psychiatrists, social workers, psychologists, nurse case managers, substance abuse disorder specialists and occupational therapists.
“Behavioral health is a is a big part of military readiness, both making sure that that people are able to carry out the mission and perform at their peak level,” explains Moore. “Also to make sure that they are able to function well in other areas of their life, with their families, and their friendships and relationships. So we try to support the support those that are having some struggles with behavioral health symptoms and then also be preventative and give people skills so that that they can perform at their highest level.”
As services reopen, Moore notes how the clinic and environment might be different, but the mission will remain the same.