Waging War on Stress

By Pfc. Eric J. Martinez

13th Public Affairs Detachment

Accomplishing the mission should be easy. Soldiers train constantly stateside to perform their war time tasks. However, a combat zone brings with it additional stressors and issues that many people cannot handle alone.

Mental health services are provided to all servicemembers on Victory Base Complex. There are health specialists from all services and branches including the National Guard and Reserve components. Therapy can range from smoking cessation to seminars on bettering all aspects of life to therapy dog programs.

"Stressors are multiplied because of deployment, and people are taken away from the support network that they had back home," said Staff Sergeant Wendy Barnes, Combat Stress Control NCOIC, 785th Medical Company. "We provide mental health treatment and services to servicemembers at the unit level with the goal of getting them back to duty," she said.

"We're here to conserve the fighting strength. We have psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and behavioral health technicians to help Soldiers cope in difficult circumstances," said Col. Steven J. Knorr, health consultant, 62nd Medical Brigade.

Stress while deployed doesn't just result from the location of the mission. "Stress can be caused by difficulty getting along with peers or leaders," Barnes said. "It's important for a servicemember to have a feeling of belonging and support and also feel effective in his mission."

Command consultants and prevention teams from Combat Stress Control go out to units in the field. They work with the command to educate Soldiers and talk to them informally about difficulties and command climate issues.

"Combat Stress is out where the Soldiers are, being a physical presence," Knorr said. "That serves to decrease the stigma that mental health people are strange or that negative things will happen to you when you visit mental health."

The surroundings are different, but the process is quite similar to being back at home station," Knorr said. Soldiers call and make an appointment to be seen. They start out with questionnaires to receive historical information and take tests to measure levels of depression or anxiety. Then they sit down with mental health technicians who interview them about problems, stressors and medical history.

Depending on the results of the intake appointment, the servicemember may need a credentialed prevention provider or a social worker. Cases may be staffed and discussed by multiple providers to come up with treatment plans, Knorr said. Treatment might come in the form of classes, individual therapy, or group therapy. The servicemember may also be recommended to the Restoration Team, which handles more intensive or long term care.

"Ultimately, just like medical care, our goal is to help the Soldier cope and get him back into his job, Knorr said. "The success rate is very high.On average 93 percent of people who are severe enough to require submission to a Restoration Team are returned to duty."

"The evacuation rate for psychiatric illness is as low as it's ever been, so we are succeeding in our mission," Knorr said.

Additional mental healthcare information can be found through Battlemind which is an Army-wide series of resources for deployment and post deployment Soldiers. Their website is http://www.behavioralhealth.army.mil/battlemind/index.html

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16