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Counselors provide services online during COVID-19 outbreak

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. James Hodgman
  • 60th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – More than 579,000 people in the United States have been infected with the new coronavirus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Millions have filed for unemployment benefits over the past few weeks, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, and more than 25,000 people in the United States have died because of the coronavirus, according to Johns Hopkins University.

All of this can lead to a significant increase in stress, conflict, anxiety and a variety of problems, according to Jaye Hurt, 60th Force Support Squadron Airman and Family Readiness Center team lead here.

“This pandemic is creating a large amount of stress and strain on our people; I’ve never seen anything like it,” Hurt said. “Many parents have lost their jobs; children are home from school, and much of the country is under a stay-at-home order.”

With all this uncertainty, it’s more important now than ever that military family life consultants are available, she said.

Military family life consultants support service members and their families with non-medical counseling worldwide. They offer confidential counseling services on a short-term basis, according to the Military OneSource website.

From March 16-29, Travis AFB MFLCs were unable to see clients due to fears of potentially spreading COVID-19. Despite the challenges the virus presented, Hurt said her team wanted to find a way to continue offering counseling services and transitioned to doing so online March 30 through Zoom, a video conferencing application. 

“We wanted to make the best use of our resources and continue to provide counseling services during this difficult time,” she said. “We need a resilient Air Force and resilient Airmen. We must do all we can to ensure our people can resolve issues without potentially becoming suicidal.”

Demand for counseling services has increased significantly across the United States in the past month, said Ashley Womble, who works in New York as the head of communications for Crisis Text Line, a free text-based counseling service.

“We have seen an increase in the number of texters per day by 50% since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States,” Womble said during an interview with NPR.

Nearly 80% of texters reporting a COVID-19-related concern also reported anxiety, Womble added.

“I had one shift where I worked for about three hours, spoke to around 12 people, and every single conversation was about the virus,” said Sara Schaller, a CTL counselor. “The fear grows as this virus does.”

Providing an outlet so people can address those fears is important, said Hurt.

“Our MFLCs have provided services at Travis AFB since July 2008, and some of our clients have had to drive from up to two hours away to see an MFLC in the past,” Hurt said. “It’s vital we are here to support service members and their families.”

Since offering their first Zoom counseling session, Travis MFLCs are averaging four clients a day. They are on pace to provide support for 120 people a month.

To make an appointment for a Zoom session with a Travis MFLC, call 510-480-8993 or 424-395-9624.