Maintaining Psychological Readiness: Keep the Lines of Communication Open
By Captain Lori Laraway, Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC) Warfighter Resilience Program Manager
Psychological strength enables our Sailors and Marines to perform at their best. Operational and wartime missions can have an impact on how one thinks, feels and acts. Military life, especially deployment or mobilization, presents unique challenges to Sailors, Marines and their families. Building psychological resilience through the use of positive coping skills helps to prevent psychological health concerns and allows Sailors and Marines to realize their full potential, work productively and make meaningful contributions in their communities.
If you or someone you know is coping with psychological health concerns, such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder or suicidal ideation, the most important thing you can do is seek support as soon as possible. The earlier you are able to share your concerns with someone else, the sooner you will begin to feel some relief. You can confide in a friend, your spouse, a peer, a family member, someone in your chain of command or your commanding officer. There are also a number of resources available through mental health care providers. The key part of the equation is to keep the lines of communication open with that someone, and be honest if you think you need help as soon as possible. Reaching out is a sign of strength.
What To Do If You Are Underway
If you find yourself coping with symptoms of extreme stress and/or other psychological health concerns while you are underway, please reach to your ship’s psychologist. If your ship does not have a designated psychologist, contact the on-board physician or chaplain, who is also trained to support these issues.
You can also reference a number of resources online, including the Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center’s Health Promotion and Wellness campaign’s online toolkit called “Relax Relax.” It is designed to help Sailors and Marines optimize performance by reducing stress through deep relaxation techniques. The toolkit offers eight different strategies, which can be used on their own or in combination with one another, to create a customizable method to calm and relax based on personal preference. Additional online tools are listed at the end of this post.
When Your Spouse Needs Support
If you are concerned that your spouse is coping with psychological health concerns, there are a number of resources available to assist. Keep in mind that you are likely the most important and trusted person in your spouse’s life, and will probably know before anyone else if he or she is struggling. Keeping the lines of communication open is vital, and below are a few tips for initiating support.
- Talk to your spouse about your concerns in very direct and specific terms when he or she is in a calm state of mind. For example, “I am concerned because you are having nightmares/ not sleeping/etc.”
- Suggest your spouse to talk to other trusted military spouses and friends whom they can relate to.
- Encourage your spouse to attend an on-base group therapy session, or visit a Military Treatment Facility or Fleet and Family Support Center. Family Support Centers provide direct counseling for Sailors, Marines and their families. Additionally, every command has a family readiness team who can provide additional assistance.
- Visit online resources with your spouse, such as FocusProject.org, that are specifically geared towards military families, spouses and children.
Please refer to the following for additional psychological support:
Capt. Lori Laraway is an advanced practice psychiatric-mental health nurse with nearly 30 years of nursing experience. Commissioned in the Navy in 1986, she has served in a variety of clinical and administrative roles in the field of mental health both stateside and overseas. She has deployed three times in support of OEF/OIF; and was responsible for the establishment of the Navy's Operational Stress Control program. She is currently assigned as the Warfighter Resilience Program Manager at Navy Expeditionary Combat Command.