Back to Top Skip to main content Skip to sub-navigation

Military chaplains emphasize spiritual health during COVID-19 pandemic

Soldier in front of military sculpture In a time when many are dealing with anxiety and fear over a new disease with no cure available, comfort can come in the form of spiritual wellness. Spiritual caregivers like Navy Lt. Nahum Melendez (pictured), a chaplain at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, help patients and their families nurture that spiritual wellness. (U.S. Navy photo by MC2 (SW/AW) Kurtis A. Hatcher, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center)

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Psychological Fitness | Total Force Fitness

In a time when many are dealing with anxiety and fear over a new disease with no cure available, comfort can come in the form of spiritual wellness. Spiritual health is a domain of Total Force Fitness that focuses on beliefs and practices. The goal is to build connectedness through hope, meaning, and purpose. Spiritual caregivers like the chaplains of the military help people nurture that connectedness. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic when physical proximity is limited, chaplains are getting creative with how they offer spiritual support.

“There’s so much from our spiritual traditions that assume an in-person connection,” said Pastor (Cmdr.) David Jeltema, a Navy chaplain at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. “To suddenly be in an environment where the way we operate has changed so radically and realize that the way to care for patients is actually to maintain a distance is a real shift in how we deliver care.”

New rules at WRNMMC and other hospitals in the Military Health System severely limit who can come in contact with patients, whether the patient has COVID-19 or not. Chaplains and family members of patients communicate from doorways and through phone calls instead of offering comfort from inside a hospital room. According to Jeltema, patients, family members, and even hospital staff are feeling the effects of the lack in closeness.

“This is a very isolating disease that we are dealing with,” Jeltema said. “When people are not able to experience things like acts of hospitality, I think they find that there’s a void in their lives.”

WRNMMC’s chaplains have found new ways to fill that void and offer spiritual support without direct proximity. Chaplains are taking a more proactive approach to contacting family members of patients and meeting their spiritual needs. WRNMMC’s chaplains also have an official Walter Reed Pastoral Care Facebook page as an initiative that has opened connection between community members, staff, and outpatients. The page extends the voluntary broadcasting of daily and weekly services to hospital in-patients. Virtual communication for both patients and family members has helped the chaplains reach more people for spiritual care and stay efficient.

“As spiritual caregivers, we are tasked to find creative ways to nurture,” said Navy Chaplain (Lt.) Nahum Melendez, who also works at WRNMMC. “We are hopeful that in the absence of physical touch there can be a different, transcendental touching of the spirit instead.”

These creative ways to nurture spiritual health extend beyond organized vocations and religions. Both Jeltema and Melendez emphasize that, at its core, spiritual health centers on what gives people meaning.

“I think that spiritual health is really about having a good sense of identity of who we are and what our purpose is in life,” Jeltema said, “and what is important is what we value.”

These values can be structured through religious practices. But, spirituality can also take the form of time spent with family and friends. Activities like yoga and meditation are rising in popularity in hospitals. Chaplains like Melendez use hand held labyrinth exercises as an innovative practice during the time of the COVID-19 pandemic. Melendez guides patients to walk these symbolic paths, meandering yet purposeful, and use them as tools to develop the spiritual life while isolated from community support.

Jeltema is hopeful that people battling fear during the pandemic will explore their spiritual health to ease that fear. Whether through religion or purposeful practice, Jeltema finds that connecting to the world is important for overall health. Nearly every hospital throughout the MHS has one or more chaplains to provide spiritual support to patients and their families. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues in the world, beneficiaries and families are encouraged to reach out to these spiritual caregivers to find a path that works for them.

“It's a real test of our spiritual health, when we look at what we do with fear,” Jeltema said. “This is a really good time to look outside of oneself to see how that fear can be overcome. There's a lot of wisdom from a lot of different spiritual traditions that I think one can find in a time like this.”

Melendez agrees, highlighting that community is a great place to find spirituality. While gathering in-person is not on the table, checking in is a way for people to make sure that their loved ones stay spiritually healthy.

“We can all help one another to reach that consequential state of mind and soul,” Melendez said, “by simply asking what it is that gives you meaning and purpose in life, and encouraging each other to do just that.”

You also may be interested in...

Understanding and Coping with Natural and Human-made Disasters

Video
6/23/2021

Disasters, such as hurricanes, floods, and peacetime terrorist attacks, can negatively impact your psychological health. Learn how to manage your stress reactions.

Recommended Content:

Psychological Fitness | Disaster Prep Toolkit | Real Warriors Campaign

You Are Your Partner's Biggest Support

Video
6/23/2021

Military life can be difficult for couples. Learn how to keep your relationship resilient to endure difficult times and stay mission ready.

Recommended Content:

Psychological Fitness | Real Warriors Campaign

Depression: Know the Signs and Options for Care

Video
6/23/2021

Depression is treatable and treatment works. Learn the signs and options for getting care.

Recommended Content:

Psychological Fitness | Depression | Real Warriors Campaign

4 Steps to Getting Care for Invisible Wounds

Video
6/23/2021

When it comes to invisible wounds, you don’t have to go it alone. Take the first step and learn how you can get connected with a health care provider.

Recommended Content:

Psychological Fitness | Real Warriors Campaign

4 Ways to Cope with Survivor Guilt

Video
6/23/2021

When a fellow warrior dies or is injured in battle, it’s common to have feelings of shock, regret or guilt. This is known as Survivor guilt. Learn how you can stay psychologically fit.

Recommended Content:

Psychological Fitness | Real Warriors Campaign

5 Tips for Better Sleep

Video
6/23/2021

Sleep is important for staying mission ready and keeping your mind sharp. When possible, get the Zzzs you need with these tips.

Recommended Content:

Sleep | Psychological Fitness | Real Warriors Campaign

5 Tips to Manage Anger

Video
6/23/2021

When dealing with the stresses of military life, anger can become frequent or intense. Use these tips to manage anger in a healthy way.

Recommended Content:

Psychological Fitness | Anger | Real Warriors Campaign

5 Tips to Stay Mission Ready

Video
6/23/2021

Getting the job done in the military takes more than just physical strength. Whether you are at home or abroad, follow these tips to stay mission ready and mentally fit.

Recommended Content:

Psychological Fitness | Real Warriors Campaign

59 Sec PSA: Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Christopher K. Greca

Video
6/23/2021

As a senior noncommissioned officer, retired Command Sergeant Major Greca did not recognize the subtle signs and symptoms of his physical and invisible wounds. Hear how CSM Greca realized that it takes strength to recognize the warning signs, and to seek support from military health resources.

Recommended Content:

Psychological Fitness | Real Warriors Campaign

59 Sec PSA: Staff Sgt. Brittany Johnson

Video
6/23/2021

Staff Sgt. Brittany Johnson spent years reliving memories of her sexual assault. By seeking care, Staff Sgt. Johnson learned what triggered her and how to cope when memories resurfaced. Hear how Staff Sgt. Johnson turned a traumatic event into an opportunity to share her story and help others.

Recommended Content:

Psychological Fitness | Sexual Trauma | Real Warriors Campaign

Taking the First Step to Access Behavioral Health Care

Video
6/21/2021

Seeking care early = a healthier life. Learn how you can get connected with a health care provider.

Recommended Content:

Real Warriors Campaign | Psychological Fitness

59 Sec PSA Overcoming the Barriers of Seeking Treatment

Video
6/18/2021

After realizing she needed treatment, Air National Guard Capt. Casey Ross felt ashamed and thought she needed to hide it from her command and feared she would lose her flight status. Hear how Capt. Ross overcame the barriers and stigma around seeking care, and how her command and military family fully supported her decision to seek care.

Recommended Content:

Psychological Fitness | Real Warriors Campaign

59 Sec PSA Embracing Psychological Health Treatment

Video
6/18/2021

After engaging in care herself and receiving support from her squadron commander and military family, Air National Guard Capt. Casey Ross is working with her unit and military family to share the message that you can get stronger through psychological health treatment.

Recommended Content:

Psychological Fitness | Real Warriors Campaign

59 Sec PSA Persistence in Care and Treatment

Video
6/18/2021
59 Sec PSA Persistence in Care and Treatment

Finding the right provider and right type of treatment takes time and patience. Hear how Air National Guard Capt. Casey Ross persisted to find treatment that worked for her and encourage her military family to do the same.

Recommended Content:

Psychological Fitness | Real Warriors Campaign

Start the Conversation

Video
6/18/2021

It’s not always obvious when someone is experiencing depression or thinking about suicide. In this video, learn how you can identify signs of distress and take action by starting the conversation about getting help.

Recommended Content:

Centers of Excellence | Psychological Fitness | Suicide Prevention
<< < ... 6 7 8 9 10  ... > >> 
Showing results 76 - 90 Page 6 of 43

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.