Behavioral health fair supports Fort Hood Soldiers, families
May 16, 2012
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FORT HOOD (May 16, 2012) -- More than thirty different services and organizations from on- and off-post came together at the Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center Behavioral Health Fair to put out a unified message that help and support are available to Soldiers and their families.
"One in four American adults suffers from one or more behavioral health issues. We put on the fair to raise awareness that help is readily available for whatever may be causing Soldiers or family members stress. Additionally, we wanted a variety of services at the fair to support the idea that well-being means achieving a balance of mental, physical and spiritual health," said Public Health Service Lt. Cmdr. Allah Sharrieff, executive officer for Darnall's Behavioral Health Department. The one-day fair and informational classes are part of Mental Health Month activities CRDAMC sponsored for May.
"Behavioral health treatment today is so much more than just seeing a counselor," Sharrieff added. "There are traditional treatments, but also holistic methods and exercises that help reduce stress and improve overall well-being."
The 200 visitors who came to the fair at Abrams Gym, May 10, gathered information from mental health resources such as Family Advocacy Program, Suicide Prevention and Marriage and Family Counseling Services. Visitors also tried some of the holistic treatments for behavioral health and reducing stress such as Acudetox, Reiki and massages. Visitors observed or participated in fitness classes such as Zumba, Spin, Firm Fit and Tai Chi.
"People just don't realize the many services available for them to get help," he added. "We're pleased with the variety of groups and services that came out. We had a diverse mix with something for everyone, Soldiers, family members, civilian employees."
Darnall's behavioral health staff showcased some of its newer services, including an intensive outpatient program for concurrent post-traumatic stress and substance abuse that opened last year.
In addition to the typical behavioral health and social work services and groups, other participators included representatives from Women, Infants and Children, known as WIC, program and ACS Financial Readiness Branch who provided information and on-the-spot advice.
"A Special Forces group also participated, helping to convey the message that even the most 'hooah' Soldiers need to build their resiliency with a balance of mental and fitness well-being. Chaplains were there to talk about the spiritual aspect as well," Sharrieff said. "It was heartening that we had so many services from the community participate. We had no way of knowing how many people would come, but they felt their time was well spent, as they, too, are committed to helping Soldiers and their families."
Afterwards, many asked to be sure to include them in next year's fair, Sharrieff added.
One off-post provider, Linda Chupik, from Chupik Counseling and Consulting in Temple, Texas, was among those. She said she felt it was essential she participate, despite the time commitment.
"This type of event is absolutely important to let the Soldiers and their families know there is help available for them," said. "There is a great need for mental health providers in this area and we've added another office in Killeen to help meet the demand. All of us providers, whether on or off post, support each other in one common goal, to help the Soldiers and their families."
The coordinators of the Soldier Art Show were pleased that the fair allowed them to spread the word about their upcoming show. The Art Show features artwork created by Soldiers as a positive means of expressing their inner emotions.
"We've opened the show up to spouses of Soldiers this year, and events like this helps us reach out to the family members," said Mildred Ladouceur, care manager from the Department of Social Work. "We're really excited as we had 20 people sign up at the fair."
The fair was an ideal event for one 61st Multifunction Medical Battalion and two of his Soldiers. Garrett said he is slated to take over as company commander and he wants to be sure his Soldiers returning from deployment are taken care of.
"I gathered information and handouts on all the different types of services, plus POCs (contacts) and phone numbers. I need to be able to tell my Soldiers, 'hey, all these services are available to help you, whatever issues you may have,'" said Capt. Dan Garrett.
Master Sgt. Erano Bumanglag, medical operations noncommissioned officer, will join Garrett as company leadership when the 61st MMB Soldiers return. He agreed that events like the fair are helpful for everyone, especially leaders.
"I am familiar with most of the services, but there were some new things here. I'm glad I came because I have to be up on all this if I'm going to care of my Soldiers," Bumanglag said. He added that the information he gathered at the fair will supplement his efforts as a certified Master Resiliency Trainer to help his Soldiers build resiliency.
For some, the fair was an unexpected treat.
"I originally came to the gym for volleyball, which was cancelled because of the rain. So I thought I'd see what was going on inside. I'm glad I did. I got a lot of good information. It's all things I think about checking out, but can't find the time to call around. Now I got many of my questions answered in one swoop," said Pfc. Constance Alford-Hughes, from the 263rd Maintenance Company, 4th Sustainment Brigade.
Reaching those Soldiers like Alford-Hughes and family members is a high priority for Sharrieff and other behavioral health professionals.
"We look at every possible way to get the message out. Yes, there are mandatory briefings and information, and I was glad to see many of the first sergeants and company commanders come out here. But does the information get passed down to the lowest level (to) that young Soldier, or his spouse?" Sharrieff said. "Events like this fair are a convenient and fun way for everyone to find out what's out there. The behavioral health information fair is being planned as an annual event. Our hope is that next year during mental health month, we can reach even more Soldiers, families, and the Fort Hood community."