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News | April 14, 2023

NSU Nursing Students share resources, dispel prejudice of seeking mental health services for Military Spouses

By Jean Graves, Medical Readiness Command, West

Northwestern State University nursing students conducted a service-learning presentation about the reluctance of military spouses seeking mental health assistance April 12 at Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital, the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk, Louisiana.

LaShawn Bryant, a licensed practical nurse with the patient centered medical home at BJACH said they chose the topic because they saw a need.

“From my experience I see a lot of spouses who come to BJACH to see their doctor about a variety of symptoms,” she said. “The patients are usually there for some physical ailment but once we screen them their mental health issues become the priority.”

Bryant said mental health conditions often manifest in physical ways.

“I think many spouses are overwhelmed but are concerned that seeking mental health services may negatively impact their Soldier’s career,” she said.

Kylee Croak graduated from Pitkin High School in 2020 and is pursing a nursing degree at NSU.

“As a nurse you can be the difference between the best or the worst day in a person’s life,” she said. “I chose nursing because I want to be the kind of nurse who can care for my grandparents.”

Croak said her team thought it important to discuss the topic because they want to encourage military spouses to seek mental health resources.

“I feel like my generation has a lot more resources available to them than previous generations,” she said. “A lot of things with trauma can manifest in a person’s daily life and it’s important that we know where and when we can get help.”

Alicia Silvera, spouse of a Soldier assigned to 687th Engineer Construction Company, 46th Engineer Battalion, has been an LPN since 2010 and has always wanted to advance her education.

“NSU is very conveniently located to Fort Polk and offers a great discount for military spouses,” she said. “The university is extremely military friendly, and all of my credits transferred.”

Silvera said she had always wanted to be a nurse because she is a nurturing person who likes to take care of others.

“This topic is very important because we want military spouses to know it’s ok to ask for help, it’s ok to talk to someone, it’s ok to seek out mental health resources,” she said. “Being a military spouse is a lot. Soldiers are often gone away from home or in the field and spouses are alone to handle everything. If we don’t have our own careers or pursuits, I can understand why some military spouses get depressed and have difficulty dealing with the daily stressors of life.”

Silvera said this topic is not only important for military spouses but for military children as well.

“I understand there are imbedded mental health services at the elementary schools, but I think it would be great if they were available at the junior high and high school as well,” she said. “I also think access to resources after normal business hours would be helpful for working spouses and as an after-school option for children."

Silvera said being judged is the biggest barrier spouses face for seeking mental health support for personal issues.

“It’s not the lack of knowledge, it’s not the lack of confidence in the available resources, resources, it’s the concern of how it will affect their Soldier or the negative self-talk that they aren’t good enough,” she said “This is my first experience as a military spouse, this is our first duty station, and I can honestly say there are tons of resources and tons of information out there that I was able to find very easily. For more seasoned spouses, I know they know what TRICARE offers and what resources are available, so it must be fear or pride keeping them from seeking out those mental health services.”

Silvera said most people think they have a handle on it.

“If you get to a point of not being able to function, unable to maintain your daily life norms, you’re withdrawn, not socializing as you normally would and you’re crying, you probably need to seek help and speak to someone,” she said.

Silvera said that seeking help doesn’t always lead to mean medication or a diagnosis.

“Sometimes just talking to someone can help a person put things in perspective,” she said.

Editor’s note: In addition to mental health resources available through BJACH and your unit chaplain there are Military and Family Life Counselors embedded at all CYS Facilities, local schools, military units and through Army Community Service.
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