Anxiety, concerns over soldiers’ mental health

    In the aftermath of the Fort Hood shootings, mental health professionals and military staff are trying to meet the emotional needs of soldiers and their families.

    In the aftermath of the Fort Hood shootings, mental health professionals and military staff are trying to meet the emotional needs of soldiers and their families.

    Listen to the radio reports:

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    New Jersey National Guard Chaplain Joanne Martindale is just returning from a national conference for military chaplains – and says she and her colleagues are concerned about anxiety levels among military families following the shootings:

    Martindale:
    They are wondering well, will Ft. Dix be the next base, or what will the next base be where somebody will do a copy cat shooting. So I think families are anxious.

    Martindale plans to reach out to families, especially to children already in support groups, and encourage them to talk about their worries.

    Michelle Sherman is a psychologist who works with military families. Sherman has written several books, among them “My Story, Four Blogs by Military Teens”. She says in families that have a loved one in the service, parents should discuss the issues with their children, but they should limit exposure to media coverage of the shootings.

    The shooting in Fort Hood has focused the attention of the nation on the state of mind of a single soldier. But mental health providers in the service say the shootings don’t reflect on the military’s increasingly pro-active approach to soldiers’ mental health.

    West Point psychologist Dr. Michael Matthews says the military has started to focus on resilience with its comprehensive soldier fitness program. Developed in collaboration with the Center for Positive Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, it screens soldiers for potential mental health problems – and provides tools for improvement:

    Matthews:
    If they come out a little low on any of the domains, there will be a series of recommended actions that they can get and resources they can tap into on their own to get better.

    Matthews says focusing on what keeps soldiers mentally healthy reduces the stigma of seeking help for a mental health issue.

    In terms of preventing future shootings – experts say there are often warning signs such as changes in behavior, or mood – but Temple University psychiatrist William Dubin says they easily go undetected because they tend to be isolated and random.

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