• August 29, 2014

Army program helps soldiers find courage to seek help

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Posted: Wednesday, October 30, 2013 4:30 am

The Army’s definition of personal courage is facing fear, danger or adversity, whether it is physical or moral.

Soldiers are taught to mirror every Army value, but having courage can be difficult in situations where they don’t necessarily feel strong.

“The Courage to Seek Help” is the Army’s 2013 theme for National Depression Education and Awareness Month. Throughout October, this observation aimed to raise awareness about the causes, treatments and realities of depression affecting one in 10 U.S. adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

One way the Army helps soldiers affected by depression or other behavioral health problems is by providing embedded behavioral health clinics to units.

These clinics operate close to units making assistance for behavioral health more accessible.

“We’re right here ... in their home (and) work environment,” said Kelli Bonyeau, a clinical social worker and the officer-in-charge of the clinic embedded with 1st “Ironhorse” Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division.

The clinic’s mission is to remove stigma associated with behavioral health problems, create relationships between providers and unit leadership, increase mission readiness, and identify trending issues within units.

Bonyeau said awareness and education can help soldiers get assistance before problems worsen and impact their ability to perform their duties. Soldiers don’t know how to fix a problem if they don’t know a problem exists, she said.

“It’s important to notice (problems) now, so you can address (them) early, and you can help people as they need to be helped, rather than wait until things blow up out of proportion,” said Capt. Timothy Martin, commander of the brigade’s Headquarters and Headquarters Troop.

Often soldiers don’t seek help because of the stigma associated with depression.

“Some people look at expressing emotions, sadness, crying or feeling down as (a sign of) weakness,” Bonyeau said. “I think it’s a myth that just because you put on a uniform or just because you deploy doesn’t mean you don’t experience any kind of struggles or don’t have feelings or emotions.”

Martin said he believes it is more hurtful to soldiers if they don’t seek help.

“Mental health is no different than physical health,” he said. “Problems don’t get better on their own, they just get worse.”

When soldiers come to behavioral health, the goal is not only to help them, but also to get them back to being mission ready and deployable, Bonyeau said. Seeking behavioral health assistance can make soldiers stronger and more resilient.

Depression can manifest itself in other ways including changes in sleeping habits or weight, self-isolation, fatigue, decreased energy, or loss of interest in activities and hobbies.

The key changes — sleep, appetite and isolation — happen over a period of time, Bonyeau said.

Depression is treatable, and anonymous screenings are available at embedded clinics, Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center and Veteran’s Affairs hospitals and clinics.

For more information, call Darnall’s Resilience and Restoration Triage Center at 254-285-6881 or go to www.realwarriors.net.

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