BOISE, Idaho, April 10, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- As Service members return from war, most will successfully rejoin their communities, contributing advanced skills and enjoying an enhanced quality of life. However, for some, the transition will not be so simple. Complicated by wounds that are not just physical, but behavioral, emotional and spiritual, these veterans will require advanced support as they integrate back into society.
With only 37% of military families living on a military installation, the majority of service members and families needing transition assistance will first seek services and support in the communities where they reside. Idaho has a significant responsibility, with over 6000 Active-Duty, 4996 National Guard and Reserve and 6,065 Veterans living in the state.
The prevalence of PTSD and TBI, said to be the signature wounds of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, have resulted in an increased need for behavioral health services. A July 2012 report found that an estimated 13 to 20 percent of service members deployed since 9/11 may have PTSD and a 2011 study showed that 6.5% of 9/11 veterans stated they were experiencing active suicidal ideation.
In addition, war zone experiences, such as committing acts that conflict with deeply held moral beliefs, can weaken religious faith, confuse core ethical beliefs, or generate feelings of shame and despair. These moral injuries may manifest as substance abuse, violent behavior, social withdrawal and depression, or suicide.
These factors, combined with a reluctance of many service members to seek help from the VA, result in an increased dependence on local behavioral health providers, first responders and members of the faith community. Unfortunately, many service providers and clergy are not educated on military culture and the unique behavioral health issues that may impact military families, making service members resistant to seeking their help or returning after one visit.
Fortunately, the Idaho Behavioral Health Alliance, a group initiated by Army OneSource, is working to ensure the state's men and women in uniform have access to culturally competent and readily available support wherever they live. The group, which includes the Idaho National Guard Liaison to the Veterans Administration and the Community, Catholic Charities of Idaho and Boise VA Hospital has launched a series of workshops aimed at educating service providers on the front-lines of support on military culture and how to best support Service members in need.
"Ensuring effective behavioral health services are available for our soldiers is a priority for the National Guard. As we began reaching out to behavioral health specialists in the community for help, we realized that many lacked education in military culture and the special mental health needs of our veterans. As a result, I am working through the Alliance to help provide no cost educational workshops around the state for behavioral health specialists and others who are interested in learning more about serving veterans," states Mary Kelly, LTC AN (ret) MS, RN, Transition Assistance Adviser, Idaho National Guard.
On April 18th, the Alliance will host their next workshop, titled "Issues Surrounding Military Suicides: Making the Connection." Clergy, first responders, behavioral health specialists, clinicians, social workers, educators, law enforcement officers, and all those who may come in contact with a service member in the course of their work, are invited to attend.
The event will take place at The Summit Church, 10375 Overland Rd, Boise, ID, on Thursday April 18th from 8:00am to 4:00 pm. Guest speakers include Jeff Hisser, Navy Veteran and author of "Return but no Escape," Mary Pierce LCSW, Suicide Prevention Coordinator at the Boise VA Medical Center, and Melaney Swenson, LCSW, Regional Director West Central Region Catholic Charities of Idaho. The event will focus on educating participants on the warning signs of suicidal ideation in service members and arm them with a tool kit of resources for support and referral.
Members of the Idaho community interested in attending must RSVP by April 15th to the Army OneSource Community Support Coordinator, Sheila Schumacher-Warner at [email protected]. The attendance fee is $6.50, paid at the door and includes catered lunch from Casa Mexico.
The state of Idaho has a great responsibility in serving the military families in its communities. Working together in an informed and synchronized effort to address the unique challenges facing today's military will go a long way in ensuring our service members and their families live the lives they deserve.
For more information about Army OneSource and the Behavioral Health Alliance contact the Army OneSource Idaho Community Support Coordinator at [email protected].
SOURCE Army OneSource