By Colleen Flaherty
Fort Hood Herald
With information-packed workshops and seminars, Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center plans to showcase its array of mental health services throughout the month.
"Our hope is to have all of the resources that we have in one area so people on post and families can see what's available to them," said Public Health Service Lt. Cmdr. Allah Sharrieff, executive officer for Darnall's Behavioral Health Division.
As part of National Mental Health Awareness Month, seminars on various behavioral health topics are scheduled each Thursday in May. Each class will include a presentation by local mental health care professionals followed by a question-and-answer session.
Recent seminars focused on children's behavioral health issues, which is an important focus for Darnall as the demands of military life affect entire families, said Corey Harvey, care coordinator for Darnall's Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Evaluation Service clinic.
Recent seminars focused on suicide prevention for both adolescents and adults.
Suicide remains a concern across the armed services, said Lt. Cmdr. Alysa Jackson, public health service officer-in-charge of medical social work at Darnall. "We want to make sure we don't forget about that. We've lost a lot of people to it."
Although suicides continue at Fort Hood, rates have fallen during the past two years. The post experienced a spate of suicides in late summer 2010, with 22 confirmed cases that fiscal year.
In 2011, there were 10 confirmed cases. Since October, which started a new fiscal year, five soldiers have committed suicide, according to information from the III Corps public affairs office. Three of those suicides were in March, which was the deadliest month so far, with at least 18 confirmed cases Army-wide.
"We want to help people with healthy coping," said Sharieff. "There are groups and organizations on post they can turn to to find alternate ways to cope."
Darnall's centerpiece event was Thursday's behavioral health fair - it's first, and a sign that the stigma regarding mental health services in the military might be waning, said Sharrieff.
"What we're trying to do is reach out and raise awareness that we need to be supportive of one another," he said, adding that statistics show one in four American adults suffers from one or more behavioral health issues. "There has been a stigma in the past, but (the military) is working year in and year out to change that."
The fair and other events were designed to reflect Army Surgeon General Lt. Gen. Patricia Horoho's holistic approach to health care, incorporating the mind, body and spirit, said Harvey. "We want to make (behavioral health care) synonymous with good medical care, to level the playing field."
Jackson said the behavioral health staff was eager to increase awareness of some of its newer services, including an intensive outpatient program for concurrent post-traumatic stress and substance abuse that opened last year.
Behavioral health care teams also are beginning to embed within brigade-sized units. The 1st Cavalry Division has Fort Hood's only such team, said Darnall public affairs official Jeri Chappelle, but the Army plans to broaden the program to include all brigade-sized units through 2017. The change will amount to 1,000 additional uniformed behavioral health officials across the Army, according to information from the Army.
Contact Colleen Flaherty at email@example.com or (254) 501-7559. Follow her on Twitter at KDHFortHood.
Additional workshops hosted by local mental health care professionals are on Thursdays this month at the Oveta Culp Hobby Center off T.J. Mills Boulevard.
Thursday, from 1 to 2 p.m.: Overcoming grief/dealing with loss of a loved one
May 24, 1 to 3 p.m.: Impact of parents' issues on children and family coping skills
May 31, 1 to 2 p.m.: Moving beyond feelings of depression/suicide; 1 to 3 p.m.: Post-traumatic stress disorder/trauma