02/10/06 — Mental Health awards given out

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Mental Health awards given out

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on February 10, 2006 1:48 PM

Supporting military families during times when either the mother or father is deployed overseas is critical to keeping families intact, said Air Force officials Thursday at the annual awards meeting held by the Wayne County Mental Health Association.

The Mental Health Team at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base is charged with helping families under stress, said Col. Donna Lake.

"It's not just the warrior that's getting on the airplane; it's the spouses and the children that are dealing with the increased stress," Lake said.

With some airmen deployed for months at a time, stress often becomes a problem for those left behind as well as for the men and women stationed overseas.

Stress comes not only from having a father or mother gone for months, but also when they return and the family has to readjust, said Capt. Todd Cesar.

"For the spouse left behind, whenever one is deployed, it leaves the other one behind to be the father and mother," Cesar said. "When the husband or wife gets back, there's an adjustment because they're used to doing that role."

He said if there were problems in the family before the deployment, the months of separation often makes them worse. The most common problems counselors see involve relationships between husband and wife, child-care worries, depression, and substance abuse problems, chiefly alcohol, he said.

The base has an Integrated Delivery System, or "social safety net," Cesar said. It offers options such as communication with deployed family members, child care services, job training, money to enable airmen or members of their family to return to school, medical services and guidance from a chaplain.

Maj. Beth Grady said the goal of the team is to normalize the deployment experience as much as possible. She said efforts are made to approach the care of families from all angles, with counselors working to identify families that might not have received help elsewhere.

"Reaching out to families is an extension of what I do," she said. "I'm kind of like a gatekeeper in some ways."

In the absence of a spouse, that means maintaining a sense of family equilibrium, she said.

"When children and families come to you, a lot of time it's not a low-level issue. It's become very significant," Grady said. Whether the stress manifests itself in a child having difficulties in school or other negative behavior, it is important to provide support, she said.

"This is not a disease model. It's a normal reaction to an abnormal event. We want to identify the stress before it gets to be really significant," she said.

Lt. Col. Dan Phillips said problems back home adds to the stress of airmen overseas.

"That's why our support for the kids and family is so important. We have to shore the families up before the deployment takes place," Phillips said.

The Mental Health Association presented several awards at the banquet.

Outgoing president Bobby Jones called 2005 "a very challenging year, with money disappearing from everywhere and funding drying up. But as an organization, we have hung in; we have been able to accomplish some pretty neat things."

Among the highlights Jones noted were several educational events, including the "Lunch and Learn" series, participation in health fairs and the reception of the Silver Bell Award for outstanding service during the annual conference of the state Mental Health Association.

Succeeding him as association president is Penny Withrow, volunteer services coordinator at Cherry Hospital. She also was named recipient of the Dr. S.D. McPheeters Award, given to the outstanding board member . Among her accomplishments, Mrs. Withrow served as chairman of the "May is Mental Health Month" events.

"I have been on the board since 2003," Mrs. Withrow said. "I've seen a lot of changes, a lot of growth, a lot of triumphs and sorrows, but mostly triumphs. I do appreciate the Wayne County Mental Health Association and all that they do for the citizens of Wayne County."

The Dr. A.H. Zealy Award, for the outstanding volunteer of the year, went to Ida Fryar, a Cherry Hospital supporter on and off for 38 years. She has been an avid visitor, invited patients to her home for meals, and has taught arts and crafts to patients, Mrs. Withrow said.
"I really enjoy what I do. The feeling I get you cannot go to Sears and buy," Mrs. Fryar said.

The William P. Condron Award for outstanding advocate service for the mental health profession went to Nancy Moore, called a strong supporter of the mentally ill as well as their families.

"I'm very honored," Mrs. Moore said.