By Lt. Col. Jefferson Wolfe, Army Reserve CommunicationsJuly 23, 2013
ARLINGTON, Va. (July 23, 2013) -- Army Reserve Soldiers are very resilient because they learn to juggle many different parts of their lives, a general officer told a group of mental health counselors.
Army Reserve Brig. Gen. Margaret Wilmoth spoke to the American Mental Health Counselors Association July 20, during their annual conference. In addition to being a general officer in the Army Reserve, Wilmoth is the dean and professor of the Byrdine F. Lewis School of Nursing and Health Professions at Georgia State University.
She talked about the Army Reserve's approach to mental health, focusing on rehabilitation and resilience programs like the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program, the Post-Deployment Health Reassessment program and Comprehensive Soldier Fitness.
Army Reserve Soldiers have to be flexible and resilient to manage family, community and their civilian career and military careers, Wilmoth said.
"We have a four-legged stool that we balance as Army Reserve Soldiers," she said.
This balancing act offers Soldiers an advantage, she added. Being active in several different communities helps them build a strong network of social support sources, which develops greater resilience.
"We are part of you," Wilmoth said. "We get our strength from you."
Army Reserve units tend to be a close-knit group, because they can work together for many years. Some Soldiers spend their entire careers in one unit, she said. As a result, they often turn to their Army Reserve network for support.
"It's been my Army Reserve friends I have turned to in my times of need," Wilmoth said. "Leaders need to be out and about and get to know their service members. We talk a lot to our Soldiers and we get to know each other in very personal ways."
But, Soldiers do not go to their units every day. Army Reserve Soldiers sometimes travel long distances from home to attend drill, she said.
"In the Army Reserve, we tend to come from outside communities to our Army Reserve unit," Wilmoth said.
As a result, it may be a neighbor, a church member, a medical provider or someone else in a Soldier's home town support network who may help identify a problem, she said.
"You all see us more than our Army Reserve colleagues, even though we are more bonded with them," she added.
As a result, resources in their home communities provide essential support, Wilmoth said.
Soldiers are likely to seek and be seen for help in the community where they live, she added.
There may not be a military treatment facility nearby and the Soldiers may not be eligible for care when not on duty. Similarly, military chaplains are a great resource for Soldiers to talk to about mental health issues, but the Soldiers may need additional support when they return to their home towns.
Wilmoth urged the health care professionals to get to know the units and visit Soldiers regularly to keep open lines of communication about community resources.
"We're trying to do all we can do in the services to identify all the Soldiers, Sailors, Airman and Marines who might be at risk," she said.
Some programs include:
• The Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program, which helps build resilience by providing Soldiers with a personal snapshot of strengths and weaknesses in different facets of their lives. It helps Soldiers to focus on things that can help them build resilience.
• Post-Deployment Health Reassessment, which engages with Soldiers through a series of mental health assessments to identify post-traumatic stress, suicidal tendencies and other behavioral concerns. This helps health care professionals understand what stressors affect the Soldier and determine the best method of support. Additionally, there is an annual heath screening called a Periodic Health Assessment, which helps identify any issues each year.
• The Ready and Resilient campaign, which integrates and synchronizes multiple efforts and programs to improve the readiness and resilience of Soldiers -- active duty, Reserve, National Guard -- Army civilians, and families.
Other supporting programs, specifically the Employer Partnership of the Armed Forces, or EPO, and Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, referred to as ESGR, include those that help a Reserve Soldier find and enhance employment opportunities.
"Eight years ago, we started EPO," Wilmoth said.
The program links employers with their Soldiers to help them understand the schedule of a Reserve Soldier, to include battle assembly, deployments and other commitments, while also highlighting the training and motivation they bring to the civilian job.
ESGR also helps by keeping employers informed of reserve component Soldier rights and employer responsibilities.
"They are a fabulous resource for us," Wilmoth said. The "My Boss is a Patriot Award" helps reserve Soldiers acknowledge supportive employers.
Programs like EPO and ESGR help service members get jobs, but they also encourage businessmen to talk to other businessmen about the value of hiring Soldiers, she added.
For medical care, Army Reserve Soldiers are eligible for TRICARE Reserve Select, which provides affordable healthcare to those who are members of the selected reserves, Wilmoth said.
"It's very good," she said. "It's very inexpensive."
Soldiers don't have to deploy to be eligible, she added. TRICARE Reserve Select is available to them soon as they join.
For 180 days before, during and for a 180 days after a deployment, reserve-component Soldiers are eligible for active duty TRICARE. At the end of that time, Soldiers can elect TRICARE Reserve Select, the Veteran Administration or their civilian insurance.
Families, too, have many resources available to them, Wilmoth said.
"Active duty spouses serve, but so do reserve-component spouses," she said. "Family members do make adjustments."
To this end, the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration program can help, by giving spouses and children a place to go and learn about resources available to Reserve Soldiers and their families, the general said. These programs are available for all the services pre- and post-deployment. They help build self-reliance and reintegration skills.
Also, Strong Bonds weekend programs for married couples can help rebuild the marital unit after a deployment. Programs are available for single Soldiers, as well.
There are programs for youth, too. There are about 700,000 children of Army Reserve Soldiers, and they often have needs that make them unique in their communities, Wilmoth said. For example, because Reserve families often do not live on or near a military base, their children might be the only ones in the school who are dealing with a deployed parent.
One resource for youth is mentioned military summer camps, geared for children and teens, she added. They can meet and interact with other youth who can relate to their challenges.