By Valecia L. Dunbar, D.M., Army Medicine Public AffairsOctober 1, 2013
October is National Depression Education and Awareness Month, and in observance of this month, on October 10, 2013, the Army will join several organizations and communities across America in recognition of "National Depression Screening Day" by leading efforts to inform the public about depression, its various signs and symptoms, the importance of eliminating stigma associated with seeking treatment, and providing information about the availability of free anonymous behavioral health screenings.
Army behavioral health is a top priority to support Soldiers and Families as they continue to serve the Nation. The Army encourages all Soldiers, Family Members, and Civilians who suffer from depression to get screened and seek the care they need. It takes courage to seek help, but as with any chronic illness, getting an early medical diagnosis and treatment may help reduce the intensity and duration of depression symptoms.
Depression is one of the most common but treatable behavioral health diagnoses. Oftentimes, the first step towards getting well is becoming aware of the significance of depression symptoms through screening. National Depression Screening Day informs military and civilian personnel and their Families about signs and symptoms of a range of behavioral health risks through anonymous inperson, online, and telephone selfassessments for depression, PTSD, generalized anxiety disorder, and bipolar disorder.
The World Health Organization reports that at least 350 million people live with depression. According to the Centers for Disease Control, one in ten U.S. adults report depression, and the Royal College of Psychiatrists suggests that one in five people will become depressed at some point in their lives.
Symptoms of depression may includepersistent sadness, difficulty concentrating, hopelessness, helplessness, fatigue, changes in appetite, insomnia, irritability, persistent aches and pains, and in some instances, thoughts of suicide. While most people feel sad or low at some time in their lives, it is time to seek help when these feelings persist and begin to interfere with everyday life which may be an indication of clinical depression, a serious medical condition that if left untreated, may continue for years and lead to other medical conditions.
Under the leadership of the Army Surgeon General's Office, U.S. Army Medical Command (MEDCOM) providers take a holistic approach to behavioral health that gives Soldiers who seek behavioral health support the ability to recover and remain on active duty. A key initiative of this approach is the implementation of Embedded Behavioral Health (EBH) in units to better locate providers in places such as stationed or deployed environments where Soldiers have the most need.
Last month, Army Medicine implemented its Performance Triad Pilot which focuses on improving Soldier and Family health through proper Activity, Nutrition and Sleep. The Performance Triad engages individuals in their Lifespace, the time they spend outside of a doctor's care. It is a key component of the Army's Ready & Resilient Campaign (R2C) Plan.
"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 and commanding general U.S. Army Medical Command, in a report to the Behavioral Health Task Force earlier this year. "Soldiers are then more likely to seek behavioral heath and other wellness care."
The 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) mandates enhanced behavioral health screening of deploying service members. MEDCOM has been fielding a Behavioral Health System of Care under the umbrella of its Behavioral Health Service Line (BHSL) that is standardizing and optimizing clinical behavioral health efforts in support of the force. Under the BHSL, enhanced
behavioral health screening is mandated across the Army. The Army conducts screening at five recognized touch points, exceeding requirements of NDAA by providing care throughout the deployment cycle to include an in-theater touch point and periodic annual screening.
"Army Medicine has taken necessary actions to ensure that behavioral health diagnosis and associated treatments have been standardized across our healthcare delivery platforms," said Horoho.
The Army encourages commanders and leaders to coordinate events locally with military and civilian behavioral health providers to get the word out to Soldiers, Family Members, and Civilians that depression is treatable, and inform them of opportunities to be screened and referred for treatment by a primary care or behavioral health provider, if needed.
Anonymous depression screenings are available online for Soldiers, Family members and Army Civilians through the Department of Defense, Department of Veterans Affairs, and behavioral health agencies and resources in local communities. It takes courage to seek help and the Army is committed to decreasing stigma associated with seeking help for depression by getting the word out that depression isavailable for Soldiers, Family members, Army Civilians, Healthcare Providers, Beneficiaries, Retirees, and Veterans seeking behavioral healthcare. Even the most severe cases of depression are treatable and the earlier the treatment begins, the more effective it is and the greater the likelihood the recurrence of depression can be prevented.
Individuals suffering from depression and those suspecting that a Family member or friend may have depression are urged to contact their primary care physician or a behavioral health professional to get the needed care. The DOD offers anonymous behavioral health assessments for Soldiers, Family members and Civilians 24 hours a day, seven days a week, online at www.militarymentalhealth.org.
Resources and Links:
• Army Behavioral Health: behavioralhealth.army.mil/
• Army Resilience Training: resilience.army.mil/
• Comprehensive Soldier Fitness: army.mil/csf/
• Real Warriors Campaign: realwarriors.net/
• Military OneSource: militaryonesource.com
• Veterans Affairs Mental Health Resources: mentalhealth.va.gov/
• Military Pathways: mentalhealthscreening.org/programs/military/
• Military OneSource: 1-800-324-9647