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Army’s Mental Health Month efforts aimed at countering stigma of seeking help

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By The Staff

By JERRY HARBEN

U.S. Army Medical Command

In May the Army annually recognizes Mental Health Month to help communicate the importance of psychological health and promote behavioral health services available to beneficiaries.

Efforts include increasing the number of health providers and support personnel, keeping key personnel with deployed units after their return to the U.S. to ensure continuity of care, and countering the stigma that seeking behavioral health care may damage a Soldier’s image or career.

The Virtual Behavioral Health Pilot program at Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu, and in Fort Richardson, Alaska, compared face-to-face counseling with counseling provided through videoteleconferencing. The VBHP is a comprehensive program designed to augment services during the deployment cycle to ensure that Soldiers receive behavioral health screenings.

Comprehensive Soldier Fitness helps Soldiers, Families, and civilians cope with the unique stresses of military life by emphasizing all aspects of fitness.

The Army is producing updated “Beyond the Front” and “Shoulder to Shoulder” videos to support required suicide prevention training. Health promotion, risk reduction, and suicide prevention efforts improve the health of the force.

RESPECT-MIL helps health care providers recognize the warning signs in Soldiers who are struggling with depression or post-traumatic stress disorder. Any visit to a primary care physician becomes an opportunity to screen for symptoms of those conditions.

In the past year more than 160,000 Soldiers and Family members participated in Strong Bonds, a program led by chaplains to help build individual resiliency. Strong Bonds is conducted in an off-site retreat format to address the impact of relocations, deployments, and military lifestyle stressors.

Military service members undergoing behavioral health care as they transition to a new duty station, or from military service to civilian life, can participate in the voluntary inTransition program. That program assigns a licensed, masters-level behavioral health clinician to provide individual assistance, assist with referrals and follow-ups, and educate members about resources and tools available to them.

The Real Warriors Campaign of the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury publicizes the stories of service members who have sought behavioral health treatment and continue to maintain successful careers. The authentic examples help reduce the stigma that often is associated with behavioral health care.

The Army’s behavioral health Web site (www.behavioral health.army.mil) offers a one-stop source for a wealth of information on psychological health and support programs.