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NEWS | Jan. 11, 2017

Saving Reserve Soldiers lives one at a time

By Rosario Urquieta 63rd Regional Support Command

To most people she is simply known as ‘Meg.’ But to the Soldiers she helps and works with she is the "Stress Management Fairy Godmother."

This particular 'godmother' saves lives.

Margaret Haycraft is the director of psychological health (DPH) for the 63rd Regional Support Command in Mountain View, Calif., and as part of her contract she works in the 63rd RSC’s surgeons group in the behavioral health section.

Haycraft knew by the age of age of 16 that helping people was her calling in life.

“I’ve been a licensed clinical social worker for 35 years. I had my own private practice for 20 years in Chicago, as well as my own call in radio show and a monthly newspaper column,” said Haycraft.

“15 years ago I was recruited to provide mental health services to Navy reservists. I was then recruited to an Air Force contract and provided the same services for Illinois National Guard Airmen,” Haycraft continued.

After her Air Force stint, Haycraft took a break as she relocated to Northern Calif. Once settled she learned the 63rd RSC needed a DPH in Mountain View and within the span of a two hour interview she was hired.

Although she lives 100 miles away in Napa Valley, Haycraft comes to Mountain View one day a week, the rest of the time teleworking from home.

According to William Kammerer, suicide prevention program manager, 63rd RSC, Haycraft has dealt with people that have become extremely angry because they can’t get in contact with their chain of command.

“These kinds of situations tend to escalate in making Soldiers think they have no one to help them or no one cares enough to want to help them,” Kammerer said.

When suicidal ideology or suicide attempt cases emerge, Haycraft is the professional who assists in mitigating the situation in which the reserve Soldier finds themselves in, he said.

“Miss Haycraft works for the suicide prevention program as a resource. She is a licensed clinical counselor,” Kammerer noted.

“I can think of five people in the last four months that have had major issues and she was able to contact them, calm them down, and get them referrals. She is pretty much on the front lines of crisis intervention,” Kammerer explained.

Kammerer said professionals like Haycraft are a resource every RSC has available to them and these are individuals who can be called on to help with mental health issues or other crises that reserve Soldiers face.

“Resources like Meg support our program by helping out with prevention events for units that have had suicides or suicide attempts. Meg is a very headstrong person who is able to connect with people and get to the root of the problem,” Kammerer stated.

Haycraft’s clinical and interpersonal skills are phenomenal, he continued.

“She can get past all the emotions and find out what the problem really is. She is a very headstrong and determined person with great communication skills,” Kammerer said.

With her experience in dealing with various situations, Haycraft can diffuse the problem and prevent it from escalating, she explained.

“I am responsible for reaching out to Soldiers who’ve been identified as being in some mental health distress,” said Haycraft. “The Soldiers in distress are identified through a physical health assessment (PHA) and mental health assessment (MHA), by their command or unit.”

Haycraft then reaches out to that soldier by email or phone calls, and once in contact she conducts an assessment to identify the source of distress, determining a course of action.

“The course of action usually includes referrals to no-cost or low-cost counseling in their geographical area and other free resources unique to military members. If necessary, I also contact their command to let them know I'm on the team and the Soldier is getting help,” Haycraft said.

Haycraft also attends 63rd RSC Yellow Ribbon events. At the events she conducts presentations on a range of topics such as suicide prevention, reintegration, post-traumatic stress disorder and communicating with family members while deployed.

“I organize and sometimes attend Postvention’s. These are events that are special requests from a unit who’ve lost a member by suicide or some other form of sudden death. I recruit Military and Family Life Counselors (MFLC) and Vet Center staff to participate in supporting the unit in distress,” Haycraft said.

“I have talked six soldiers out of ending their lives and instead to seek professional help,” she added. “I get to affect a change in people's lives, be compassionate and real, and to be trusted by people in need who are hurting.”

Assisting Soldiers in their darkest hours is something Haycraft doesn’t take for granted.

“I am tremendously privileged and honored to have been there for them - I believe it doesn't get any better than this,” Haycraft beamed. “This is my dream job. I am living my life’s purpose and am immensely grateful.”