Joint Base Lewis-McChord enlists help of mental health experts at schools
Tuesday, June 26, 2012, 3:49:55 PM
Children in military families face a great amount of stress as they cope with one or more parents being deployed at any time. This stress can manifest itself in many ways, but it often leads to academic challenges and emotional distress. This is why six elementary schools at Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) recently enlisted the help of mental health experts to give extra support to children whose parents are deployed, The Tacoma News Tribune reports.
All children experience feelings of sadness and anxiety, but these can be especially difficult for children with parents in the military who get deployed. The adjustment after a parent leaves is tough, but when he or she returns it can pose unique challenges, too, according to the news outlet.
Bringing mental health experts to base schools is part of a wider program called School Behavioral Health, which is funded by the U.S. Army Command. JLBM's system is based off a model developed at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii and is the Army's second effort to provide military children with emotional support.
As part of the program, mental health specialists offer students and their families free, on-site services such as individual and family therapy, medication management and activities for children. Having the services based at school make them accessible and reduce social stigmas associated with visiting a mental health clinic, the news outlet reports.
According to base officials, the compliance rate for services at JBLM is 95 percent, whereas programs on other bases experience about one-third of participants not showing up to appointments.
These services are particularly important for military children, who statistically have higher rates of emotional and behavioral difficulties, according to the National Military Family Association (NMFA). Along with the RAND Corporation, the NMFA conducted a survey of 1,500 military children over a year in 2008 and 2009 and found they faced these challenges at higher rates than the national average. About one third of military children reported symptoms of anxiety, which is higher than that of other American children.
At JBLM, about 26 percent of students in the school's behavioral health program have depression or another mood disorder, and about 12 percent have anxiety disorders.
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