New resource for servicemembers' mental health issues planned
Jessica McNurlen is engaged to a U.S. Marine. After his three deployments to Iraq, she struggled to make a seamless transition when he returned back home.
“It would have been great to know where to go, and I often say what questions to even ask... because if you don't know what you're looking for, how do you even know where to turn,” she said.
While she knew that resources were available, she wanted specific answers.
“What are some signs I should look for, normal, not normal, red flags of post traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury, anything,” she says, listing some of her concerns.
McNurlen has turned her own experiences into a new role that aims to help military families in Montgomery County find a starting point when questions arise.
As incoming project director for Serving Together, she'll be working with the county's mental health association to support a new model of care for service members.
“We want to make sure not only is there a community education piece around the available services, but that if somebody needs an individual to help walk them through this system of services, that this project will eventually provide that as well,” said Sharon Friedman, executive director of the mental health association.
An estimated 50,000 veterans live in Montgomery County, and the relocation of Walter Reed Army Medical Center to Bethesda is another reason why organizers think this is a good time to start their program.
“What better place to have an initiative like this to really kick off, get started to be able to set a model for the country of what you can do in your community,” one asked.
The program is made possible through a four-year $500,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson foundation. With that funding, the program plans to create a website and offer expansive training. That training will show mental health professionals how best to work with military members and families, and also teach military families themselves so can recognize red flags for a mental health challenge.
The mental health associations' military hotline at 301-738-7176 is available already to answer questions Monday through Friday.
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