News: Army helps soldiers have courage to seek help
Story by Pfc. Paige Behringer
FORT HOOD, Texas – The Army’s definition of personal courage is facing fear, danger or adversity, whether it is physical or moral.
Soldiers are taught to mirror every Army value, but having courage can be difficult in situations where they don’t necessarily feel strong.
“The Courage to Seek Help” is the Army’s 2013 theme for National Depression Education and Awareness Month. Throughout October, this observation aims to raise awareness about the causes, treatments and realities of depression affecting one in 10 U.S. adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
One way the Army helps soldiers affected by depression or other behavioral health problems is by providing Embedded Behavioral Health Clinics to units.
These clinics operate close to units making assistance for behavioral health more accessible.
Capt. Timothy Martin, commander of the Headquarters and Headquarters Troop “Hammer,” 1st “Ironhorse” Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, said he believes having the EBH Clinic right around the corner is beneficial to the brigade.
“We’re right here … in their home work environment,” said Kelli Bonyeau, a clinical social worker and the Ironhorse Brigade EBH Clinic officer in charge.
The clinic’s mission is to remove stigma associated with behavioral health problems, create relationships between providers and unit leadership, increase mission readiness, and identify trending issues within units.
Bonyeau said awareness and education can help soldiers get assistance before problems worsen and impact their ability to perform their duties. Soldiers don’t know how to fix a problem if they don’t know a problem exists, she added.
“It’s important to notice (problems) now, so you can address (them) early, and you can help people as they need to be helped, rather than wait until things blow up out of proportion,” said Martin, a Midland, Mich., native.
Often soldiers don’t seek help because of the stigma associated with depression, “Some people look at expressing emotions, sadness, crying or feeling down as (a sign of) weakness,” said Bonyeau, a Miami, Fla., native. “I think it’s a myth that just because you put on a uniform or just because you deploy (that) doesn’t mean you don’t experience any kind of struggles or don’t have feelings or emotions.”
Martin said he believes it is more hurtful to soldiers if they don’t seek help.
“Mental health is no different than physical health,” Martin added. “Problems don’t get better on their own, they just get worse.”
When soldiers come to behavioral health, the goal is not only to help them, but also to get them back to being mission ready and deployable, Bonyeau said, adding that seeking behavioral health assistance can make soldiers stronger and more resilient.
Many factors of a military lifestyle can impact a soldier’s mental well-being.
Deployments, separation from family and a support network, stress, unpredictable schedules, change of lifestyle, and isolation can wear soldiers down and affect different areas of their lives, said Martin.
If a soldier is depressed at home, the high level of stress during a deployment will only add to the problem, Martin said.
Many symptoms of behavioral health problems involve emotions: persistently feeling sad, anxious, empty, guilty, worthless or hopeless.
Depression can manifest itself in other ways including changes in sleeping habits or weight, self-isolation, fatigue, decreased energy, or loss of interest in activities and hobbies.
The key changes — sleep, appetite and isolation — happen over a period of time, Bonyeau said.
“People always say you have to know your soldiers,” Martin said. “Every soldier is different.”
Martin said if he notices a change in a soldier’s behavior pattern that is his clue to ask if something might be wrong.
“We need to care for people as a whole person, and their health and their well being is critical,” Martin said.
Depression is treatable, and anonymous screenings are available at EBH Clinics, Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center, and Veteran’s Affairs hospitals and clinics
For more information about behavioral health assistance, contact Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center’s Outpatient Behavioral Health Services at (254) 553-2288 or (254) 553-228, or visit www.realwarriors.net.