Joan Hunter
Public Health Service Capt. Joan Hunter, director of psychological health for the National Guard Bureau, speaks at the 2010 Suicide Prevention Conference sponsored by the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments in Washington, D.C.

ARLINGTON, Va., Feb. 9, 2011 -- The National Guard has appointed directors of psychological health for each state and territory to ensure a continuance of excellent care for servicemembers and their families.

The state directors of psychological health have been assigned to each of the 54 Joint Force Headquarters to serve servicemembers in the Army and Air Guards, National Guard officials said.

"We are slowly building a behavioral health program [in the National Guard]," said Public Health Service Capt. Joan Hunter, the National Guard Bureau's director of psychological health. "Currently, we have 56 directors of psychological health.

"These are licensed practitioners at the independent level - meaning they have state licenses to practice without supervision - but we provide them with supervision and make it mandatory, even if they don't need it.

"In other words, they have a lot of experience."

The Director of Psychological Health, or DPH, assesses what is going on in the states; acts as a consultant to leadership and servicemembers and assesses and refers servicemembers who are showing signs of stress, post-traumatic stress or a mild traumatic brain injury.

State DPHs are working with chaplains and the surgeons from both the Army and Air Guards to design what behavioral health should look like in the National Guard, Hunter said.

Dr. Gretchen Hegeman is state director of psychological health for the Maine National Guard.

She creates programs in the Army Guard where there are voids between those already in place, pulling together important resources and creating standard operating procedures.

"On the Air side, I am the one who evaluates the Airmen and get them into services to help them out with their stress," Hegeman said.

When a program for preventing behavioral health issues comes from the National Guard Bureau, active duty or Department of Defense, Hegeman figures out how it can be best implemented to help Guardsmen in her state.

Guardmembers have access to many tools and resources to manage stress, Hunter said.

"There are resources at the federal level through Military OneSource, and the Department of Health and Human Services sends out funding to the state level in order to create a higher visibility for Guardmembers to [know what resources are out there]," she said.

Stress management is important for not only servicemembers, but also their families, Hegeman said.

"If the level of stress is not controlled, then that can cause problems for the whole family," she said.

It is important to get the community alerted to the needs of servicemembers and their families, and the culture surrounding the two, Hegeman said.

"It's what we do, and we are here to help them be the best they can be, given the stresses that we put them under," she said.

Page last updated Thu February 10th, 2011 at 07:48