JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. —
Mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic was the focus of an employee webinar hosted by Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD) Lakehurst, May 13.
Approximately 80 employees joined the virtual event where guest speakers from the Mental Health Association in New Jersey Alaysha Kearney and Jeana Simko discussed the signs of mental stress and coping mechanisms in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month.
“The past two months have been challenging for many of us with a wide range of emotions anywhere from anger, sadness, fear, isolation, stress, being overwhelmed and in some cases loss of a loved one,” said Kathleen Donnelly, NAWCAD Lakehurst executive director, during the webinar’s opening remarks. “During this time we can also focus on the positives, the reasons to be thankful. I know I’m thankful for the amazing team we have here at NAWCAD Lakehurst. You all showed tremendous resolve and dedication, adapting quickly to a new way of working and living.”
NAWCAD Lakehurst’s Individuals with Disabilities Advisory Team (IWDAT) and Equal Employment Opportunity office hosted the webinar in lieu of their yearly in-person event due to maximum telework and social distancing protocols.
“IWDAT hopes to convey the importance of maintaining mental health and bring awareness to resources and techniques available to individuals within our workforce,” said Matthew Southard, IWDAT co-lead. “More importantly, we hope our fellow colleagues recognize that we are all in the fight against COVID-19 together, and are here for one another when needed.”
“It’s important to be mindful of how you are responding to a situation, because sometimes we’re just acting and we’re not understanding why we are behaving in a manner,” Kearney said. “When signs and symptoms last for several days in a row, and cause problems in your daily life so that you find it hard to carry out normal responsibilities, it's time to ask for help.”
She suggested keeping a journal to track your moods and how external factors (work, family, physical changes, sleep schedule, foods, the news etc.) are affecting your mental health. Finding a pattern can reveal the stressors you should eliminate to feel better, she said.
Simko discussed building a list of things you have done in the past that made you happy that you can turn to when you’re feeling down. Examples included exercise, baking, listening to music, talking to friends, napping, repeating positive affirmations or writing a list of your accomplishments.
The webinar concluded with a list of mental health resources for the workforce, including the Department of the Navy Civilian Employee Assistance Program. IWDAT posted resources on the workforce intranet and started a discussion board to help all employees focus on their mental wellbeing.
As part of the Naval Air Systems Command diversity and inclusion program, IWDAT’s mission is to support the recruitment, retention, professional development and advancement of individuals with disabilities, including wounded warriors and individuals with targeted disabilities.
“Being physically distanced from our teams and workplace doesn’t have to mean we are isolated from one another,” Southard said. “Picking up the phone and calling someone, or making use of the available virtual collaboration tools can go a long way to reminding us that we are in this together.”