The Psychological Readiness Program: 449th CAB places mental health first
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – The 449th Combat Aviation Brigade Behavioral Health Officer, Capt. Katie Duffy, introduces the emotional support puppy-in-training, Ms. Stevie Bear Nicks, to the Soldiers of the 449th CAB to bring joy and smiles to Soldiers. (Photo Credit: Courtesy) VIEW ORIGINAL
The Psychological Readiness Program: 449th CAB places mental health first
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – The 449th Combat Aviation Brigade Behavioral Health Officer, Capt. Katie Duffy, helps celebrate the birthday of the 449th CAB Command Sgt. Maj. Matthew Shorter, Aug 10, 2017. Duffy supported the mental health of Soldiers, ensuring they received at taste of home while deployed in the Middle East in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. (Photo Credit: Maj. Briana McFarland) VIEW ORIGINAL

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – It’s Mental Health Awareness Month and the 449th Combat Aviation Brigade continues to place mental health as a top indicator for overall Soldier readiness.

Capt. Katie Duffy is the 449th CAB behavioral health officer (BHO), and her role is to provide traumatic event management in nature but also works closely with the brigade chaplain to provide a totality of resources for Soldiers in need.

As an enlisted Soldier returning from deployment to Iraq, Capt. Duffy struggled with the transition back and forth between being a Soldier and a civilian. She knew other Soldiers may be experiencing the same thing – or worse – and may also need help. She was excited when the U.S. Army provided her the opportunity to attend the Army Medical Department school at Fort Sam Houston, Texas where she became licensed as an Army social worker. After 21 years of service, she’s happy she made the transition and appreciates the opportunity to work in a helping profession.

Capt. Duffy wants Soldiers to know that her job is not to deem them unfit for duty. Instead, her role is to provide much needed behavioral health care resources and support for Soldiers to remain mentally stable and healthy as a ready asset to the organization, but more importantly, for themselves and their families.

“I utilize my enlisted experience and deployments as a point of commonality when talking to service members in their one-on-one sessions,” said Capt. Duffy. “It provides leverage because it shows I understand and helps me find valuable solutions to their problems. Behavioral health profiles are meant to ensure Soldiers have time to recuperate from behavioral health injury or illness.”

Duffy is not alone in breaking the stigma when it comes to mental health. Every Major Subordinate Command in the North Carolina Army National Guard has an embedded BHO. There are currently nine BHOs in the state, four of which are full time G1 Medical clinicians. BHO’s are responsible for completing fit for duty assessments, BH profiles, command directives, crisis management and command consultations. They also deploy with their brigade and assist with pre-mobilization and de-mobilization support to service members. Additionally, they also provide community resources and programs, as needed, to provide care in a timely manner.

N.C. is one of the few states that has an Integrated Behavioral Health System (IBHS) – a program under the J1-Soldier Support Services, which is available to any reserve component and their families. While BHO’s are the readiness facet of behavioral health in the state, IBHS is the wellness option. There’s a collaboration between the two programs so Soldiers have the greatest level of care available.

Capt. Duffy’s aim is to de-stigmatize mental health and wants Soldiers to recognize the signs that they may need help to include, but not limited to; sleep disturbances, anxiety, feeling numb or disconnected, avoidance, inability to concentrate and becoming easily startled. The more Soldiers that know BHO’s are in the formation and there to help, the more they can de-stigmatize mental health.

“It’s an honor to be able to do this work,” said Duffy. “The greatest impact is when you see service members returning to duty and seeing them healthier, happier and a more thriving human being. It’s just as rewarding to see a Soldier go through the medical process but recognize that I’ve helped them receive every benefit they’re entitled to, and they get to walk away from their career with dignity and respect.”

If you’d like to know more about the Psychological Readiness Program, please view their website at https://nc.ng.mil/services/crisisintervention/Pages/Psychological-Readiness.aspx