By Capt. Sean Cicogna
The 620th Movement Control Team (MCT), 10th Division Sustainment Troops Battalion, 10th Mountain Division Sustainment Brigade, partnered with Jefferson County Community Services to conduct Mental Health First Aid Training at the 10th DSTB Headquarters on June 7.
The course equipped those who attended how to identify the signs and symptoms of mental illnesses, as well as how to treat individuals in crisis. Since every mental illness is unique, Soldiers were taught how to respond to a range of disorders outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder, Fifth Edition; or more commonly known as, the DSM-5.
The class taught participants how to determine between a mental health episode requiring routine care, and a mental health crisis.
Pvt. 1st Class José Vázquez, who attended the training, commented on his experience: “She gave different tips, like if someone is in a panic attack…. Sometimes we don’t know how to react in these situations, [but] the class provided good tips to deal with these [crises].”
One of the most serious crisis that can arise is when one is a threat to themselves. According to the Department of Defense (DoD) Quarterly Suicide Report (QSR) 4th Quarter, CY 2021, the Army’s suicide rate has increased every year since 2017 with 175 soldiers dying to suicide in 2021 alone.
The course was instructed by Qualified Mental Health Specialist Alicia Ruperd. Ruperd serves as both the Coordinator of Mental Health Services for Jefferson County Community Services, and Chairperson to the Jefferson County Suicide Prevention Coalition. This consortium of organizations and individuals seeks to prevent suicide through public education and awareness.
Ruperd, who said she “was ecstatic” when the 620th MCT’s Commander, Capt. Sean Cicogna, reached out to her, reflected on the training:
“As the spouse of a veteran and an individual that was born and raised within this community, I was honored to be able to present a mental health training to our local active duty service members,” said Ruperd.
“Just as medical first aid training is important, programs like Mental Health First Aid are important as they take the fear and hesitation out of starting conversations about mental health and substance use problems by improving understanding and providing a specific plan that teaches people to safely and responsibly identify and address a potential mental illness or substance use disorder. When more people are equipped with the tools they need to start a dialogue,” Ruperd said. “More people can get the help they need.”
The training marks the first time Jefferson County Community Services and Fort Drum have partnered to conduct a mental health training on the installation. Ruperd hopes that the training will encourage other Army leaders to partner with her office, saying, she is “hopeful that this opens the doors to offer future educational opportunities for our Fort Drum community.”