FORT POLK, La. –
The Behavioral Health Department at Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital and the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, embedded behavioral health clinic hosted an open houses Sept. 28 at the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk, Louisiana.
The event was organized by Lt. Col. Alexander Ragan, installation director for psychological health, in support of Suicide Prevention Month. The intent was to connect command teams with behavioral health staff and give them the opportunity to visit the clinics where Soldiers and Families receive care.
“Leadership plays a major role when it comes to the behavioral health needs of Soldiers and their Families,” Ragan said. “It is important they have the tools to recognize warning signs early and to help their Soldiers receive the support they need to prevent negative outcomes.”
According to Ragan, there are several warning signs that could lead to mental health concerns in the future.
“It is imperative to stay connected to your Soldiers,” he said. “Things like financial problems or relationship concerns, if left unresolved, could cause sleep problems, moodiness, anxiousness and loss of interest in things they usually enjoy.”
Patricia Shepard, licensed clinical social worker, specializes in working with children over the age of four and adult military dependents.
Shepard said she enjoys the work she does and offers counseling and classes to help Families struggling with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress and more. She is also starting a post-partum depression group and feels this will be beneficial for new parents.
“When a Soldier knows their Family members are taken care of, they are able to focus and serve without disruptions,” she said.
The Fort Polk Army Wellness Center also participated in the event.
Pamela Richard, project lead and director for the center, was on site to answer questions concerning resources offered at AWC.
“It is important to take care of the entire person; mind, body and spirit, to make sure we are functioning at our best,” she said.
Richard said a holistic approach when dealing with physical and mental health issues brings about better outcomes.
“Problems usually stem from within and tend to project outward towards others. By focusing inward we can help people get right with themselves,” she said, “It is important to exercise and strengthen the body, and it is just as important to exercise and strengthen the mind.”
Richard said the AWC can be a missing link for anyone (Soldiers, retirees, Family members or civilian employees) trying to better themselves.
Chaplains are another resource offering 100 percent confidential counseling.
Capt. James Walker, BJACH chaplain, offers daily affirmations to the hospital staff.
He recently shared a quote by Bessel Van Der Kolk, author of The Body Keeps Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma, “If you cry out for help and people come to help you, you’ll likely not get traumatized. Feeling like you’re, a member of the human race is terribly important.”
Walker said being able to feel safe with other people is probably the single most important aspect of mental health.
“Meaningful and rewarding relationships depend on safe connections,” he said. “Think about that when you ask for help or when others ask you for help.”
Ragan plans on hosting additional behavioral health events throughout the year to build community awareness. Virtual tours and videos highlighting programs and services available are some of what’s in store
“We need to pay attention to mental health awareness daily. Paying attention to how we are feeling, thinking and behaving gives us insight into our mental health status,” he said. “When you’re mentally healthy, your feelings, actions and relationships are in a good place.”
Ragan said when you are mentally aware you can relax, work and enjoy your downtime to the fullest extent.
“This doesn’t mean that life is always perfect,” he said, “but when you are faced with uncertain obstacles in life, you are better equipped to cope with them.”