By Ms. Lily Daniels (Regional Health Command Pacific)September 12, 2018
TRIPLER ARMY MEDICAL CENTER, Honolulu -- Lush green ridgelines plunging down to palm-tree lined beaches may be your version of paradise. Across the Pacific region there are various idyllic surroundings hosting a paradise for many people, but while a person may live in a paradise, they may not be able to enjoy it if they suffer with behavioral health problems.
Recognizing the need to build a cooperative behavioral health care network, seven years ago, Regional Health Command -- Pacific (RHC-P), in partnership with the Veterans Affairs Pacific Islands Health Care System (VAPIHCS), launched an annual behavioral health summit to enable military and community health care providers a platform to share the latest medical and technological innovations, research topics and approaches to care.
Brig. Gen. Michael Place, RHC-P's deputy commanding general, welcomed the more than 250 military and civilian behavioral health professionals to the summit, which took place Sept. 6-7. Throughout the two days, guest speakers discussed a variety of topics, which included: access to care, children and families, emerging treatments, ethics, mobile applications, post-traumatic stress disorder, readiness, sleep, suicide prevention and management of clinically diverse patients.
Even during the opening remarks, speakers were ready to provide new information and resources.
"This year, in partnership with the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security, the VA gives all new veterans access to mental health care for at least one year after their completed military service, regardless of disability status," said VAPIHCS Director Jennifer Gutowski.
Gotowski also had participants add the VA's Veterans Crisis Line of 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to their cellphones just in case they're in a situation to pass it along to someone in need.
U.S. Public Health Service Cmdr. Joseph Holshoe, deputy chief of behavioral health and chief of multi-disciplinary clinic at Bassett Army Community Hospital at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, presented on the correlation between sleep and mood disorders.
"We know that if you have symptoms of depression then you're going to have symptoms of a sleep disorder, and that sometimes if you can treat the sleep disorder that the symptom for depression (or anxiety) goes away," said Holshoe. "They're interrelated, so recognizing that you don't just want to treat the mood or anxiety, you want to treat the sleep as well. If you treat sleep at the same time, people feel better."
Holshoe also discussed sleep across the lifespan, which emphasized how much sleep is recommended for a person at various age spans. Newborns and infants may sleep up to 14 to 19 hours; children require 10 to 12 hours; teenagers require nine to 10 hours; adults require about seven to eight hours; and the elderly have decreased deep sleep and an increase in fractured sleep.
The amount of sleep listed in his presentation was based off National Institute of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Sleep Foundation and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
"Sleep should be a conscious part of your life," said Holshoe. "Have an internal clock that says I need to eat dinner by this time, so I can go to bed by this time. It's something you have to add as part of your planning."
Other presentations included a registered play therapist-supervisor, Jennifer Taylor of Jen Taylor Play Therapy Services, to discuss the use of play therapy and how it's beneficial for military families.
"Play therapy is a field within the mental health field that focuses on helping children to solve problems using play, games, drawing art, rather than just relying on words," said Taylor. "Play therapy is good for all sorts of things. It could be a preventative type service, a nonmedical counseling service for people who are struggling with day-to-day situations, and it is good all the way through severe traumatic situations… it can also be good for separation anxiety, adjusting to a PCS [permanent change of station], adjusting to a deployment transition, so it can really be used in a lot of ways."
Taylor also pointed out that children under the care of a play therapist would receive similar services if they moved and established care in a new area, as a many operate from the same foundation or theoretical background.
The summit features more benefits than the emerging topics and technologies presented, it also opens the lines of communication amongst behavioral health care providers.
"The island is very much about local community partnerships, and I think the community depends on us as much as we depend on the community," said RHC-P Behavioral Health Clinical Director Dr. David Brown, (who has coordinated the summit for the past seven years). "The value of having this here on island is that people or commands aren't spending additional money by traveling to the mainland, providers aren't losing time seeing patients during the travel days, and this is a training institution, which is able to provide continuing education units."