By Valecia L. Dunbar, D.M., MEDCOM Public Affairs May 2, 2013
Congress designated the month of May as National Mental Health Awareness Month and Army Medicine is an important part of the partnership to spread the word about why pathways to wellness are so important.
Pathways to Wellness calls attention to strategies and approaches that help all Americans achieve wellness and good mental and overall health.
Each year, the Army leans forward with various organizations, community groups, Families and individuals across the country in this public campaign to raise awareness, promote prevention, early detection and treatment forbehavioral health (BH) diagnosis such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and a host of other BH diagnosis impacting Soldiers, Families, Veterans and Civilians. This year the Army's theme is "Breaking the Silence." The Army is determined to decrease the stigma and get help to those who need it, by promoting dialogue between leaders, Soldiers, Families, Civilians and the community.
According to Mental Health America (MHA), wellness is more than an absence of disease. It involves complete general, mental and social well-being. The fact is our overall well-being is tied to the balance that exists between our emotional, physical, spiritual and mental health. Mental health is an
essential component of overall health and well-being.
The June 2012 Medical Surveillance Report, suggests that recent wars may have contributed to the increase in BH diagnosis of active service members. In 2011 mental disorders accounted for more hospitalizations of U.S. service members than any other diagnostic category. During the years of 2000 through 2011, 936,283 active component service members across services were diagnosed with
at least one mental disorder. The Army database indicates that 8% of the Soldiers deployed between 2001 and 2011 received a BH diagnosis of PTSD. While not all deployed Soldiers receive BH diagnosis, many experience symptoms that could benefit from BH treatment.
Today, Army Medicine is actively implementing recommendations of the Behavioral Health Task Force's Corrective Action Plan (CAP) to implement both short-term solutions and long-term, systemic changes that will make care and treatment of Soldiers and Family members more effective.
The Army is moving out energetically to establish innovative, evidence-based BH systems to meet the increased demands from prolonged combat operations. Recent initiatives include the establishment of annual BH screening for all Soldiers and telebehavioral health services which now
are operating in 51 countries/territories across 19 time zones.
The Army is moving into a new era of BH support though the standardization of new healthcare systems that will revolutionize Army BH. One such program is Embedded Behavioral Health which is an early intervention and treatment model that provides multidisciplinary community behavioral healthcare to Soldiers in close proximity to their unit area and in ready coordination with unit leaders.
"We want to get behavioral healthcare out of brick and mortar and into the Soldier's Lifespace," said Lt. Gen. Patricia D. Horoho, Army surgeon general. "Soldiers are then more likely to seek behavioral health and other wellness care."
Utilization of this model has shown statistically significant reductions in: (1) inpatient psych admissions (2) off-post referrals, (3) high risk behaviors and (4) number of non-deployables.
The U.S. Army Medical Department is committed to strengthening BH and overall resilience of Soldiers, Families and Civilians by providing new assessment tools, resilience training, and promoting leader-led discussions that empower the Army Family to conduct self assessments and support others to intervene by understanding risk factors, protective measures, warning signs, and by taking appropriate intervention actions when needed.
During National Mental Health Awareness Month the Army takes this opportunity to further provide
education on BH diagnosis and symptoms and get the word out about the array of BH services, programs and new initiatives available to support Soldiers, Families and Civilians in garrison and operational environments who may benefit from seeking help for BH problems.
In 2011 the Army implemented the Behavioral Health System of Care (BHSOC) Campaign Plan. TheBHSOC is being implemented under the Army's Behavioral Health Service Line (BHSL). This initiative is nested under the Army Campaign Plan for Health Promotion, Risk Reduction, and Suicide Prevention. The BHSOC is intended to further standardize and optimize the rich spectrum of BH policies and procedures across the U.S. Army Medical Command to better identify, prevent, treat and track BH issues that affect Soldiers and Families during every phase of Army operations. The Army provides BH services in all garrison and operational environments.
Under the BHSL, the Army supports 31 enterprise BH programs supporting Soldiers and Families who have experienced multiple deployments and other demands of military life. PTSD is only one diagnosis in a range of possible stress-related responses that an individual may experience as a result
of exposure to potentially traumatic events. The Army provides support for all BH conditions.
MHA states that fully embracing the concept of wellness not only improves health in the mind, body and spirit, but also maximizes one's potential to lead a full and productive life. Using strategies that promote resiliency and strengthen mental health and prevent mental health and substance abuse conditions lead to improved general health and a healthier society: greater academic achievement by our children, a more productive economy, and Families that stay together.
"Army Medicine is a learning organization and as such we are continually changing the landscape to improve the outcomes for our patients," said Horoho.