DeWitt on the forefront of depression awareness
Jennifer Song

FORT BELVOIR, Va. - October has been National Depression Awareness Month across the country. Depression is a topic Fort Belvoir's DeWitt Healthcare Network takes quite seriously.

In holding true to the Army's theme of "Depression is Treatable - Get Screened - Seek Care," employees with the network began training earlier this month to help them identify symptoms of depression among patients and fellow workers.

Signs and symptoms of depression include sadness, feelings of guilt or worthlessness, restlessness, withdrawal and trouble concentrating or making decisions. Depression can also produce body aches and pains, irritability, anxiety, overeating and loss of appetite.

Jennifer Song, transitional chief for the Directorate of Behavioral Health, said the intent of the training is to help prevent stress or work-related burnout for Soldiers, as well as military spouses and anyone else in the community.

She said the training consists of online research and in-class discussions with Richard Putney, a special aid teacher in behavioral health. She also said classes will continue until everyone in the hospital network is trained.

"The target is to recognize any warning signs of depression in an individual," Song said. "Depression is serious if not treated right away. With this training, we'll be better prepared to offer someone help as a provider."

One of the first steps in getting help, according to Song, is a depression screening. Through a new Army campaign called "Respect - Mil," she said the Behavioral Health Department will be teaming up with DeWitt's Primary Care Clinic to offer free screenings to active-duty Soldiers for depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Song said one of the benefits to this method is that an individual can get tested with their primary doctor, which should make things more comfortable and help increase overall awareness. Anonymous depression screenings are also available through the DoD at militarymentalhealth.org.

"It's important for Soldiers to be screened for mental health, particularly when coming back from a deployment and being away from their families for so long," Song said. "The more we know helps us determine what type of resources and programs we should have available for them."

Because working in health care can come with its own challenges and stress, Song said DeWitt has an employee assistance program to help workers with any problems they may experience while on the job. She said the therapy sessions last no more than an hour and there's no cost for employees. More information is available by calling Carol Frazelle at 703-696-3787. DeWitt also hosts suicide prevention training every year.

Song has been at DeWitt for six years, but has more than 10 years experience in the field of behavioral health. She is a licensed clinical social worker and previously worked at Greenspring Village -a retirement community in Springfield.

It was an interesting career choice, considering she was once a musician. She played harp in her native China for several years before coming to the U.S. two decades ago. Today, as she prepares to help DeWitt move into its new, state-of-the art home across the street, she maintains no regrets about her decision.

"I made a decision to pursue this field because I love therapy work. I can relate to it and feel I can make a positive contribution in someone's life," Song said. "I'm one of the lucky ones in the world who can say they still love their job after more than 10 years."

Page last updated Thu October 28th, 2010 at 14:36