Monday, November 23, 2009

Good Leadership Embraces Good Prevention

Although seemingly far removed from our home in the Pacific, the events of Nov.5, 2009, at Ft. Hood have undoubtedly touched each of us. Twelve were killed and 31 injured by a service-member opening fire on fellow Soldiers. It will probably never be known if this tragedy could have been prevented had others intervened during his career or if others had recognized warning signs of him being in trouble.

This tragedy does, however, serve as a reminder of the importance of taking care of ourselves and each other and stepping forward when we see a Wingman/Battle Buddy/Shipmate/Marine in need. We must remain aware of changes in behavior and demeanor, of signs that something is not right, whether it be with a co-worker, friend or family member. We should not hesitate to speak up or to act. We must set discomfort aside and understand our responsibility to look out for each other and ourselves. Service members pride themselves on their ability to be strong in the face of extreme stress, yet we must be strong enough to embrace the idea that getting help is not a sign of weakness.

The Department of Defense has launched efforts aimed at reducing the stigma associated with receiving behavioral health services and provides an array of resources that may serve as that first step in accessing care. Help is easily accessible and confidential. Speed of treatment and getting the right treatment are key to minimizing long-term behavioral health consequences. Signs of problems may include anxiety, depression, hyper-vigilance, insomnia, nightmares, emotional numbness, cognitive difficulties and intrusive thoughts. Additionally, feelings of guilt or sorrow, abuse of alcohol or drugs, loneliness, divorce and domestic violence can occur.

To care for others, we must also take care of ourselves and seek out help if stressors become too much or begin to overwhelm us. It may be difficult to take that first step to help others or to obtain help for ourselves. We must understand that it is not only acceptable to seek help but seeking help should be encouraged. We may need to point our colleagues towards available resources, and we need to follow-up with them, to make sure that they have sought help and that those who can help have in fact responded. We need to do the same with our families, our neighbors and our friends.

Good leadership embraces good prevention. From seaman to admiral or private to general, we are all trained to lead. Preventive behavioral and mental health must be endorsed as a leadership and peer-to-peer responsibility. A profound part of looking after people under our charge, or people important in our lives, is to reinforce the benefits of behavioral/mental health assistance and to encourage getting help when needed.

GUEST BLOGGER: Rear Adm. Michael H Anderson,
U.S. Pacific Command Surgeon

1 comment:

Bill said...

Focus Guides (Outreach and Prevention Staff Guide; Marriage and Relationship Enhancement Focus
Guide) have now been posted : (The Key Spouse
Guide and the Healthcare Professionals Resource Guide is now nearing completion of the review process, so watch for them.)

Also see


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