In today’s post, I’d like to discuss mental health support in the Army National Guard. I think it’s best if I take a moment to define mental health before I dive too deep into this topic.
Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act, and helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices.
Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood. Over the course of your life, if you experience mental health problems, your thinking, mood, and behavior could be affected. ~ SAMHSA.gov
Serving in the Army National Guard is a commendable commitment that comes with a unique set of challenges and demands. Alongside the physical challenges, the mental well-being of soldiers is of paramount importance. Recognizing the significance of mental health, the Army National Guard established a comprehensive system of support to ensure that soldiers and their families have access to the resources they need. In this article, we explore the various mental health support initiatives available to Army National Guard personnel.
Mental Health Support in the Army National Guard
Listed below, we will share 10 helpful mental health support resources for Army National Guard soldiers and family members.
# 1. Resilience & Mental Toughness Training
The Army National Guard emphasizes the development of mental resilience and toughness. Soldiers receive training that equips them with the skills to manage stress, adversity, and unexpected situations. This begins in Basic Training and continues throughout their military career.
# 2. Behavioral Health Services
Army National Guard soldiers have access to behavioral health services that include counseling, therapy, and mental health evaluations. These services are designed to address a range of mental health concerns.
# 3. Real Warriors Campaign
The Real Warriors Campaign is a resource dedicated to raising awareness about psychological health and encouraging service members to seek help for mental health challenges without stigma.
The Real Warriors Campaign encourages members of the military community to seek help for psychological health concerns by promoting a culture of support and emphasizing that mental health care IS health care. Initially founded in May 2009, the campaign was revitalized in 2023 through collaboration between the Defense Department’s Psychological Health Center of Excellence (PHCoE) and the Defense Suicide Prevention Office (DSPO). The campaign remains active in the Department of Defense’s mission to reduce the stigma associated with mental health, amplify suicide prevention efforts, and support military community psychological health and readiness. The campaign prioritizes early help seeking in the military community, encourages access to mental health care destigmatizes mental health, and increasing knowledge and understanding of mental health information. ~ Health.mil
# 4. Veterans Crisis Line
The Veterans Crisis Line is available 24/7 to provide confidential support for soldiers experiencing emotional distress or crises. It’s a crucial resource for those who need immediate assistance.
The Veterans Crisis Line is a phone, online chat, and text-messaging service. It’s free to all Veterans. It’s free even if you are not registered with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). It’s free even if you are not enrolled in VA health care. Hundreds of Veterans call us every day, and start to get back on track.
The Veterans Crisis Line is staffed by caring, trained VA responders. Many of these people are Veterans, too. They understand what Veterans have been through. They know the challenges Veterans face, for all ages and in all service eras. ~ Veteran’s Health Library
# 5. Military Family Life Counselors
These counselors provide confidential, non-medical counseling to military families, including National Guard families, to address various stressors and challenges that can impact mental well-being.
The Military and Family Life Counseling program supports service members, their families and survivors with confidential non-medical counseling where they are stationed. Non-medical counseling can help individuals address issues such as improving relationships at home and work, stress management, adjustment difficulties, parenting, and grief or loss.
Trained to work with the military community, military and family life counselors deliver valuable face-to-face counseling services, as well as by phone and video. They also provide group support with briefings and topic-specific presentations to the military community both on and off the installation. ~ Military One Source
# 6. Embedded Behavioral Health Teams
Embedded behavioral health teams consist of mental health professionals who are integrated into military units. They provide on-the-ground support, conduct training, and offer immediate assistance when needed.
# 7. Chaplain Services
Chaplains offer spiritual support and are trained to provide guidance and counseling to soldiers dealing with emotional and moral challenges.
In the US Army’s current care structure, chaplains are frequently first responders to the personal and psychological problems of soldiers. This is a long tradition. Long before mental health providers existed in the ranks, chaplains were available to soldiers as pastors, lending a listening ear and wise counsel. Today, maintenance of the soul of the soldier is the primary mission of the military chaplaincy. Wherever faith and life intersect, the chaplain is present.
Chaplains, like their civilian counterparts, play a defined role in rites and rituals celebrating the meaningful passages of life from birth to the grave. Their calling is to the development and growth of the soul, both temporally and eternally. These activities inherently support the mental health of soldiers and their family members, and make the chaplain a natural partner to military psychiatric caregivers. ~ Chapter 11, Role of Chaplains
# 8. Online Resources
Online platforms such as the Military Crisis Line, After Deployment, and the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury provide valuable information and tools to support mental health.
# 9. Peer Support Programs
Peer support programs connect soldiers with others who have experienced similar challenges. These programs foster a sense of camaraderie and provide a space for sharing experiences. You can visit the Military One Source website and schedule a free call or chat.
# 10. Stigma Reduction Initiatives
Efforts are being made to reduce the stigma associated with seeking mental health support. These initiatives aim to create an environment where soldiers feel comfortable seeking help when needed.
During my time as a soldier and officer, getting mental health support was a stigma, almost taboo. If you went to get help, it would go on your permanent record and could potentially limit your career advancement opportunities. I’m not sure if that stigma is 100% gone, but it appears that the military is doing a better job to support the mental health of its soldiers and dependents. Of course, I’ve been out of the military more than a decade now, so maybe someone who reads this article, and is currently serving, will leave a comment below and share their thoughts.
In conclusion, Mental Health Support in the Army National Guard is of the upmost importance. Mental health is a cornerstone of overall well-being, and the Army National Guard recognizes the importance of providing robust support for its soldiers. By offering a range of resources, services, and initiatives, the Army National Guard ensures that soldiers and their families have access to the help they need. Prioritizing mental health not only strengthens individual soldiers but also contributes to the overall readiness and effectiveness of the National Guard as a whole.