Winning mind wars to overcome life's battles

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Sadie Colbert
  • 35th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

 Every morning, Capt. Mary Zander, a 35th Medical Operations Squadron psychologist, wakes up, puts her uniform on, and prepares for a day of listening and finding solutions to help her patients conquer their challenges.

Air Force psychologists provide deeper-level care for patients by taking a look at inward problems that manifest themselves outward. They help to instill methods in their patients that will help them overcome their hurdles.


“The first thing I try to do is to get to know my patients,” Zander said, explaining how that is one thing that separates psychologists from other medical professions. “A lot of times people just want to know there are other people in this world who are going through the struggle with them. When we have a foundation of knowing our patient and empathizing with them, then we can work on behavioral changes by coming up with ideas.”


She explained most people know what they need to do to help their situation, but may need someone else to help motivate them to do it, which is what she is there for.


“A large barrier within the American culture is our strong work ethic,” Zander said. “We tend to work, work and work, and we forget about doing things to recharge ourselves, like having fun and relaxing. Those should be a part of our basic routine in life.”


Zander added the more someone focuses on grinding through work, the less resiliency they may have, which can make them vulnerable to mental health issues.


“When things go wrong at work and an individual gets really stressed, they tend to buckle down and work harder,” Zander said. “Then they get more stressed because they are not recharging themselves.”


Individuals can self-apply to mental health by going to the mental health building and filling out a screening application to begin the process.


After a screening application is complete, an initial appointment is made to assess and interview the applicant to best identify which program is suitable.


“People think their jobs are at stake when they come to mental health,” Zander said. “They think we will remove their flight status or their weapons bearing, or we will kick them out of the military, but that is not always the case.”


Zander said unfortunately the tragedy of the misconception is patients who need care will not come into mental health while non-career impacting intervention is still possible, but because of the few that wait until they are command directed into the program, most people only hear about those career impacted individuals.


Despite what others may perceive about going, Zander knows what she is doing affects lives for the better.


“I can see a lot of courage in my patients,” Zander said. “I get to hear everything they struggled with and went through and for me to see they are still chugging along and trying to make their lives better always touches my heart.”


Service members can also go through the Behavioral Health Optimization Program located at the Family Health Clinic, which is a solution-focused 20 minute visit, giving patients targeted intervention.


The Mental Health Flight hours are Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday from 7:30 a.m. –

4:30 p.m. and Thursday from 8 a.m - 4:30 p.m.


To contact mental health, call 226-3230.