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    Addressing the Stigma of Mental Health at NMRTC Bremerton

    Addressing the Stigma of Mental Health at NMRTC Bremerton

    Photo By Douglas Stutz | There's always a addressing the stigma of mental health. Despite serving in...... read more read more

    As June, designated as ‘Men’s Health Month’ by the Military Health System, transitioned into July, the hope is that most males who habitually focus on their physical rather than mental health have at least considered the importance of psychological and emotional well-being.

    Navy Marine Corps Public Health Center (NMCPHC) notes that there is a stigma amongst men in even considering mental health care.

    Despite serving in varied land, sea, underwater, and air environments where long deployments, Traumatic Brain Injury, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and a host of other issues can – and do – directly impact soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, there exists a hesitancy to openly consider, communication and confront individual mental health.

    Yet mental health expert like Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Command (NMRTC) Bremerton’s Lt. Caitlin Sleight are making a difference in individual and collective mental health for service members and their families.

    For Sleight, clinical psychologist, Mental Health division officer and Marine Corps Security Force Battalion Psychology Liaison for NMRTC Bremerton’s Mental Health Department, mental health is a crucial cognitive component for everyone’s overall health and wellness.

    “Paying attention to our behavioral health is an important aspect of overall health because it is the foundation of warrior toughness and resiliency for service members. Many people mistake mental health to mean the absence of negative emotions. When in fact, it means putting in the energy to formulate a comprehensive understanding of the etiology [origin] of our own emotional, physical, psychological and social interrelationships to subsequently adapt in the face of adversity. As warfighters, our greatest strengths are our ability to regulate, modulate and tolerate unique stressors of an operational environment,” said Sleight.

    The operational environment has been completely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has added another layer of mental health concerns.

    “As a Navy clinical psychologist amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, we collectively faced world-wide isolation, death, rapid change, and global uncertainty of the future. Our sailors were isolated aboard ships for months at a time, isolated from families, friends and sometimes unable to visit home to formally mourn the loss of a loved one because of travel restrictions. As a clinical psychologist during a pandemic or not, our role is integral in facilitating the processing of complex emotions that can result from grief, death and dying,” Sleight said.

    Statistical evidence also shows that the pandemic has exasperated mental health in men more than women, especially when it comes to added stress and anxiety, financial concerns, and increased consumption of alcohol. Addressing such issues, and the reluctance to share, are responsibilities which Sleight provides attentive support and focus in her clinical psychologist role.

    Yet what exactly is stigma in the context of mental health?

    According to the NMCPHC, stigma is a reluctance to share issues and seek support from friends, family, co-workers and to request assistance from helping professionals such as chaplains, medical personnel, counselors and mental health professionals like Lt. Sleight.

    There are possible negative effects due to stigma. Stigma may lead to negative beliefs that someone who seeks help is weak, and also that they should instead be strong, in control and be able to handle everything. Other problematic negative beliefs are that they will lose their job, career, security clearance and standing, or that they will be labeled, stereotyped, ostracized and discriminated against by others for seeking mental health support.

    “In addressing the stigma of men seeking help, one has to understand what underlies this stigma. It is the negative attitudes or beliefs that men experiencing behavioral health difficulties are somehow weaker or exemplify a weaker character,” explained Sleight. “The perpetuation of this stigma amongst western culture and concepts of masculinity is entirely contraindicated and detrimental to warrior toughness and resiliency. It can lead to a disproportionate number of males feeling shame about what they’re experiencing, discriminating against others and avoidance of services that may alleviate symptoms and improve functioning.”

    Sleight cites that one way she has actively addressed reducing the mental health stigma is working with the Force Preservation Council at the Naval Base Kitsap Marine Corps Security Force Battalion.

    “Through this collaboration with MCSFBn leadership, we are working towards normalizing seeking mental health treatment through open and honest communication, psychoeducation and frequent collaboration between Navy Medicine clinical psychologists, leadership and independent duty corpsmen,” noted Sleight.

    Sleight’s work aligns with the Navy surgeon general priority on operational readiness, and the core mission of ensuring force medical readiness. Her duty directly contributes towards that standard.

    “Psychological readiness to essential in maintaining operational readiness. My duty as a Navy psychologist is to target treatment at primary, secondary and tertiary care level, to both prevent illness and facilitate recovery so that our sailors and marines are both prepared to face adversity and stressors or return fit for full duty after a period of treatment,” stressed Sleight.



    Date Taken: 07.04.2021
    Date Posted: 07.04.2021 11:31
    Story ID: 400348
    Location: BREMERTON, WA, US 

    Web Views: 221
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