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Servicemembers Get Free National Depression Screening Day Evaluations

Gerry J. Gilmore American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 10, 2008 –

Servicemembers, retirees and their family members are getting free, anonymous screenings for depression and other mental-health-related issues at military bases nationwide during National Screening for Depression Day today.

National Depression Screening Day is an annual program run by a nonprofit organization called Screening for Mental Health, U.S. Public Health Service Capt. Mark Paris said during a recent interview with the Pentagon Channel.

The organization manages a special program for the Defense Department called the Mental Health Self-Assessment program, Paris said, providing materials and information and offering free mental-health assessments at military health fairs.

“It’s anonymous. You’re not writing your name or telling anybody who you are,” Paris said. “You have that privacy, which is very important to our servicemembers.”

Servicemembers fill out an assessment form, which is scored on site, Paris said. If there is an issue, he said, the person conducting the assessment recommends that the servicemember seek help at resources such as on- or off-base treatment facilities, the Military OneSource Web site and others.

Evaluations also are available, he said, for post-traumatic stress disorder, alcohol and drug problems, anxiety and other maladies.

The evaluation program is especially useful, Paris said, for servicemembers returning from deployments in Afghanistan or Iraq, who may experience stress-related symptoms of depression, post-traumatic stress disorder or other mental health-related issues.

“Some of those folks are going to have problems that are going to last for a little while, and then there’re going to go away on their own; that’s true, we believe, for most folks,” Paris said. “And some are going to have more of a problem.”

The screening takes just a few minutes, Paris said.

“You can answer honestly, because, again, nobody knows who you are,” he said. “And, you get pretty quick feedback.”

Paris cited “A Different Kind of Courage,” a DVD produced by the military that features interviews with military health care providers and senior enlisted and commissioned leaders, some of whom talk about how they experienced and confronted emotional difficulties that surfaced during the course of overseas deployments. The video, he said, is available for viewing online and also can be obtained at military health fairs.

“Nothing happened to their careers,” Paris said, describing the experiences of the military members featured in the video who experienced emotional issues and sought and obtained treatment.

The U.S. Public Health Service is a component of the Department of Health and Human Services. DoD and HHS announced on June 4 that they’d agreed to team up to expand the availability of mental health services for returning warfighters, their family members and military retirees.

As part of this agreement, mental health officers in the PHS’s commissioned corps are being attached to military medical treatment facilities across the United States to provide psychiatric care, counseling and family and group therapy for servicemembers, military retirees and family members.

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