[ The Real McCoy Online Home ]                                                                                                                 February 27, 2009

Mental health care for Soldiers 
available at Fort McCoy

By Tom Michele, The Real McCoy contributor

The Behavioral Health Clinic at Fort McCoy is an important stop for mobilizing and demobilizing Soldiers. As Sgt. 1st Class David Patterson explained, "It gives the Soldier the opportunity to address any mental health concerns they may have before demobilizing."

Photo: Sgt. 1st Class David Patterson

Patterson, a mental health specialist, is the noncommissioned officer-in-charge at the clinic. 

That is one of the stations that is required for mobilizing and demobilizing Soldiers before they begin or end their tour.

"Soldiers donít always detect change in their behavior," Patterson said. "However, the military has now provided therapists and counselors as a resource to assist the Soldier, when needed, to address their problems. Our office is one of those resources."

There are many variables that may lead to further evaluation of a Soldierís mental health, such as pre-existing conditions, like having prior service and civilian experiences such as drug and alcohol abuse or growing up or living in an abusive environment, according to Patterson.

"In the case of the mobilizing Soldier, those pre-existing conditions may surface when they get into a stress environment, such as a combat situation, causing their issues to become exacerbated," Patterson said. "Certain situations can trigger a Soldier emotionally or psychologically that could produce some mental health concerns."

If a Soldier shows signs, on the assessment forms, of having a particular issue, problem or concern, which could range from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (MTBI) or any other mental health issues, then a further assessment is made.

"We didnít provide as many mental health resources during the Vietnam Conflict as we do today," Patterson said. "Now we have resources that can treat from the front, such as combat stress control, which consists of a prevention team and a restoration team. The prevention team is within the area the Soldiers are located and they move with the Soldiers. The restoration team is the clinic, which provides more intense treatment and care."

"Mobilizing Soldiers may seek our service at the clinic, but it is not mandatory," Patterson said. Soldiers may visit on a self-referral basis or they could be command referred if necessary. They also may get a legal or chaplain referral.

"Demobilizing Soldiers are required to visit our office," Patterson said.

All returning Soldiers are to be screened for PTSD and MTBI as well as other mental health issues.

"In past campaigns, Soldiers were able to slip through the cracks and get home without addressing their issues," Patterson said. "Many times Soldiers donít want to be delayed from getting home or they donít want to be stigmatized by coming to our office."

Patterson explained that to alleviate the stigma and prevent Soldiers from missing a visit to the clinic, all Soldiers are screened and assessed for how many times they have been to a theater operation and any previous mental health history, which may include issues about depression, anxiety, suicidal or homicidal thoughts or MTBI.

"If the Soldier isnít cleared through our office," Patterson said, "then their time on duty may be extended for further evaluation and treatment, which would be performed at our clinic or they could be sent to Fort Knox, Ky., for treatment."

"We try to make the transition and re-integration from the military service to civilian life as smooth as possible," Patterson said. "We want our Soldiers to know that no one can carry the weight of the world on their shoulders all by themselves. There are resources to assist them if needed. It is important for Soldiers to recognize this."

"Based on the outcome of the evaluation, the Soldier may be referred to our psychiatrist," Patterson said. "However, if the issues arenít as urgent, the Soldier could be referred to the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Centers in their home area. We also recommend Soldiers seek out the Military One Source which is another great resource."

Patterson may be contacted for information at 608-388-4679 or e-mail at David.Patterson@amedd.army.mil.

(Michele is a public affairs specialist for Eagle Systems and Services Inc., contractor for CONUS Support Base Services.)

(See related story)


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