FRANKFORT, KY (11/10/12) – As Kentuckians prepare to celebrate and honor our nation’s veterans on Nov. 11, Veterans Day, the Kentucky Department for Behavioral Health, Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities and Kentucky National Guard are partnering to offer the public a chance to experience life as a soldier. “Operation Immersion” is an intense, three-day training course that provides participants the opportunity to experience military culture firsthand.
Over the course of the exercise, which will take place Nov. 14-16 at Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center in Muhlenberg County, providers gain insight into the military experience. Attendees become “immersed” in the military lifestyle and deployment experience by sleeping in barracks; going through a modified early morning “PT” or Physical Training; completing chores and inspection; experiencing a Field Leadership Reaction Course; simulating rifle marksmanship; supporting convoy operations; simulating improvised explosive device attacks and infantry combat; as well as meeting and networking with military personnel and resources. . The program is only open to providers of behavioral health and medical professionals who provide or would like to provide services to military population and their families.
“Stigma continues to be a barrier to soldiers seeking assistance for mental health or substance abuse issues,” said Stephen Hall, commissioner of the Department for Behavioral Health, Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities within the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. “Worries about career impact and a belief that professionals outside the military do not understand the experience of being a soldier keep service men and women from accessing critical behavioral health care. This training offers civilians a chance to experience life as a soldier in an effort to help erase stigma associated with seeking mental health services.”
According to the American Psychological Association, 20 percent of the 1.7 million veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or major depression. In 2009, the Department of Veterans Affairs estimated that nearly 13,000 of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have alcohol dependence syndrome. Suicide remains a leading cause of death among active-duty personnel and veterans.
Operation Immersion exposes providers and other participants to military life. Behavioral health experts contend that in order to remove barriers and ease soldier apprehension to accessing treatment, it’s important for health care providers and mental health counselors to understand the unique characteristics and challenges that come with military life.
“We are presenting a comprehensive, three-day training in military culture and issues unique to soldiers and their families who have served in the combat theatre and experienced long deployments," said Commissioner Hall. “Our veterans, active military personnel, as well as their families and loved ones, face tremendous stress not experienced in civilian life. We hope to help providers gain more insight by opening up a training that immerses them in the culture.”
Information provided by the CHFS
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