YOUR SOLDIER IS OUR SOLDIER
If you are the family member or friend of a Soldier and you are reading this, you may already have a Soldier who is causing you worry or concern and you may be trying to figure out what you can do to help.
You may have asked your Soldier to get help and received the response, “It will ruin my career.”
When a Soldier is referred to us, the first thing we do is reach out to talk about what is going on and discuss options.
Unless there is a reason to suspect immediate risk of harm to self or others, contact with us is confidential. In cases where the Soldier’s issue may be severe enough to impact performance or readiness, he may need a temporary profile.
Many Soldiers experience behavioral health issues that do not impact their performance but cause discomfort. These Soldiers can engage in treatment to obtain relief with full confidentiality and may never be given a profile.
The profile identifies a Soldier with a medical or behavioral health issue and describes any limitations that may be in place. An example of this could be a Soldier with a leg injury. A temporary profile will be written that says the Soldier should not be made to run for a period of time while the injury heals.
The profile is a way of communicating with Commanders when a Soldier has an issue that could potentially result in harm to self or others, limit performance, or impact missions. It is a tool used to keep Commanders informed about their Soldier’s health and readiness. Commanders are also in a better position to support their Soldiers if they know about an issue.
If a Soldier has an issue and seeks treatment, once that treatment is complete and the Soldier feels better, the profile can be expired.
Bad news travels fast. In some instances Soldiers have been separated because of mental health issues, but there are specific reasons for that.
There are conditions that are known to be chronic and difficult to stabilize. The Army has a requirement that these be evaluated on a case by case basis to determine if the Soldier’s issue is stable and likely to remain stable. If so the Soldier can be retained. If not then the Soldier may be separated.
Some Soldiers have serious issues but refuse to engage in any kind of treatment because they don’t believe they have a problem or they think they can resolve it without help. They may have to go before a board to determine their fitness for duty.
Can we promise that coming forward will not affect your Soldier’s career? No we cannot. What we can say is that acknowledging a problem and engaging in treatment nearly always results in less suffering and a better quality of life for the Soldier and those who love him.
Your Soldier may be exhibiting behavior with you that he or she is not exhibiting to his military peers and command. They may never disclose what they are going through to us, and we will not know to reach out and offer support. But you can let us know.
Your Soldier is our Soldier, and if they are suffering then we want to do what we can to help both of you.
Are they angry? Depressed? Not sleeping? Drinking too much? Acting differently? Isolating?
People will often show sides of themselves to those closest to them but not to others. They hide their suffering because they don’t want to impose, be perceived as weak, or fear negative impact on military career.
If the Soldier has a service connected issue, one that is brought about by experiences the Soldier had while actively serving, then treatment may be provided through the VA or an active duty military treatment facility once the service connection has been established. If the issue was not brought about in the line of duty and the Soldier is a veteran, he may be able to access services through the VA.
If the Soldier is not VA eligible, or the VA is too far away, or did not incur the condition in the line of duty, we still want to help and support. Our Psychological Health Program (PHP) staff will link the Soldier to civilian community-based care. If the Soldier is unemployed and doesn’t have health insurance, he may qualify for state sponsored insurance, or we may be able to link him to an organization or provider that provides low or no cost treatment to service members. We can also refer to other organizations that can help with jobs, housing, education, and many other things that could be causing stress. When you call us we can tell you about those programs too.
Behavioral health conditions do not fix themselves. It just doesn’t happen that way. People sometimes think that time will take care of it, it’s just a phase, a bump in the road that will smooth out on its own. Engaging in treatment with a mental health provider, whether it be a therapist or a prescriber, can provide tremendous relief, restore function, and improve quality of life for the Soldier and those around him.
Many people try to self-treat, and one of the most common self-prescriptions is alcohol. Alcohol will never fix a behavioral health condition and frequently makes it worse. It lowers inhibitions, clouds judgment, and the unhealthy thoughts, moods, and behaviors become more pronounced and dangerous. Behaviors that a person would never consider while sober, like hurting himself or others, can become the answer they’ve been seeking when intoxicated. Your primary concern and ours needs to be the safety and well-being of the individual who is suffering as well as that of others.
Can the Army Reserve promise that a Soldier who seeks treatment can stay in the military? No, we cannot, but what we can promise is to do our best to try and get the Soldier to the care and treatment he needs to be healthy, happy, and whole again. If he is able to accomplish that then there is a good chance that there will be no impact on military career.
If you are watching your Soldier suffer then you are suffering too. The behaviors that accompany mental health issues can disrupt family life, destroy relationships, and result in harm to the individual who is suffering as well as those around him. You have every right to be concerned. It can be exhausting to live with a family member who is experiencing a mental health issue, especially if he refuses to engage in treatment. On his good days you say to yourself, “He seems good today, maybe this is it, maybe it will last and the worst is over.” But deep inside you know it’s not over, and the roller coaster ride will continue. Ask yourself this: If the person you care about is suffering, negatively impacting your quality of life and the lives of others around him, if he’s hiding his issue from his civilian employer or the military, if he’s refusing to address the issue and get help, how long do you think it should go on and what do you expect to happen over the long haul?
Call one of us to talk about it. We may be able to help you figure out what to do. If you call us and report a Soldier with issues, we can reach out and offer to help. Unless it is determined that there is imminent harm to the Soldier or others, confidentiality is maintained. We have to let you know that if there is a determination that there is imminent danger then we are obligated to report it. This is called Duty to Warn.
Family members are also eligible for our services. If you are experiencing a behavioral health issue we can help you find appropriate treatment options within your community.
Suicide is a priority concern in the Army Reserve and it does happen. When we look back to try to find a cause, it turns out that in most of the cases there were no signs visible to us. The Soldier attended battle assembly, performed well, looked fine, acted fine, never disclosed problems, or otherwise indicated anything to suggest he or she was at risk.
But family members all saw a completely different side, work problems, relationship conflict, legal issues, financial stress, and substance abuse. We have no way of knowing these things are going on unless our Soldier tells us.
Please be our eyes and ears. Please tell us or someone in your community when you see these things.
Your Soldier is our Soldier!
GENERAL QUESTIONS: USARMY.USARC.USARC-HQ.MBX.PSYCHOLOGICAL-HEALTH-PROGRAM@MAIL.MIL
USAR DIRECTOR OF PSYCHOLOGICAL HEALTH PROGRAM
COL Melissa L. Mitravich, AN (Fort Bragg)
Deputy Director, Psychological Health Program
CPT Phillip Lewis, LICSW (Fort Bragg)
Director, Psychological Health (DPH) Team Lead
Stacey Feig, LPC (Fort Belvoir)
63RD READINESS DIVISION
DPH Meg Haycraft, LCSW
DPH Holly DeClerck, LCSW
NCM Jill Robinson, RN
NCM Amy Lindsey, RN
88TH READINESS DIVISION
DPH Deb Olson, LCSW
DPH Deb Koltis, LPC
NCM Martha Serbus, RN
NCM Bruce Kyllonen, RN
81ST READINESS DIVISION
DPH Donna Brunetti, LPC, LPCC, LMHC
DPH Rhoda Donnelly, LCSW
NCM Kwajaleyn Myers, RN
NCM Sharon Kay Harper, RN
99TH READINESS DIVISION
DPH Patricia Moloney, LCSW
NCM Cindy Delphey, RN
NCM Maria Zelko, RN