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    Military Mental Health Awareness



    Story by Seaman Mohamed Labanieh 

    USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72)

    The United States Navy has programs in place to help Sailors whenever needed. If a Sailor feels stressed, overwhelmed, or struggles with any mental health issue, the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) provides 24-hour access to care.
    Mental health is the part of a person’s overall health that focuses on psychological functioning, emotional well-being and interpersonal relationships. It’s a part of how human interact with each other, manage stress, cope and express happiness and joy among other things.
    “Taking care of our mental health and our personal well-being impacts our physical health and provides us the strength and resiliency to handle challenges as they arise and continue moving forward with the mission,” said Lt. Nicholas Grant, a clinical psychologist aboard Abraham Lincoln.
    According to Grant, the stigma that exists around mental health within all branches of the military impacts people’s level of comfort with accessing care. He believes it is important to reduce this stigma in order to be a more resilient Navy. In combination with reducing stigma, Grant said if we build a culture of acceptance and support around mental health, we can communicate to people that accessing care and help is not a weakness in any way.
    “The more proactive we are around mental health, the more we can get Sailors engaged in accessing care when they need it as well as practice preventative mental health solutions to ensure they are ready and able to accomplish the tasks at hand,” said Grant. “That way if challenges come up, Sailors will be better equipped to tackle them and keep moving forward with the mission.”
    Grant believes the most important preventative solution is to engage in self-care whenever possible, even with the limited options Sailors have on deployment. Some common self-care approaches he recommends include practicing good sleep habits, engaging in stress reducing activities or hobbies, exercising, practicing good nutrition and communicating with loved ones back home. Those activities might seem behavioral in nature, but they have a positive impact on mental health as well.
    “Taking care of our mental health teaches us to cope and manage stressful situations in a healthy and more balanced manner,” said Lt. Miranda Hamelberg, a clinical psychologist aboard Abraham Lincoln. “It can help to enhance our self-esteem and confidence, give us a better ability to focus and concentrate, and generate improved motivation to increase productivity at work and at home.”
    According to Hamelberg, mental health and physical health go hand in hand. Research shows that strong mental health lowers cortisol levels (stress hormone) which leads to a stronger immune system and can even help prevent us from getting sick. Hamelberg added that mental health symptoms can often manifest in physical forms, such as headaches, stomachaches, fatigue, increased heart rate and other somatic symptoms.
    “Taking care of both our mental and physical health is imperative for a strong military,” said Hamelberg. “Checking in with yourself and knowing when you need to make adjustments to your behavior or to how you think is a key first step to improving your mood and reaching out for support from friends, family, and other loved ones can be an excellent first line of defense. When you work hard to care for yourself, seek support from trusted friends and family, and things just don't seem to be changing, it may be time to talk to a physician or seek the care of a mental health professional.”
    A mental health augmentation team came aboard to assist the ship’s crew with their mental health needs until the end of deployment. This allowed the medical department to make services available 24-hours a day so night shift Sailors could have convenient access to care as well. When Sailors request support, they go through a preliminary assessment to determine the appropriate level of care they need. Clinical psychologists, behavioral health technicians, chaplains and the deployment resiliency counselor are options available to Sailors who are seeking support.
    “The most prevalent mental health symptoms I’ve seen on the ship are depression and anxiety.” said Grant. “Ten months into the deployment, it’s natural to feel burned out due to being under stress for this long. We’re here to help our shipmates get through it by collaborating together on decreasing their symptoms, increasing their resiliency and strengthening their coping skills. It is my goal to help Sailors get through the matters at hand as well as give them tools to keep in their tool box so they’re better equipped to address and deal with stressors if they arise in the future.”
    According to Grant, the majority of work in therapy happens in between sessions. What patients take from their sessions, and how they work on it and apply it in their everyday life is a major factor in achieving improvement and growth.
    “Building strong mental health is a process,” said Grant. “I feel very fortunate to be my fellow shipmates’ companion on their journey to strengthening their mental health and helping them overcome life’s hurdles.”



    Date Taken: 12.26.2019
    Date Posted: 12.31.2019 12:40
    Story ID: 357820
    Location: US

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