Spectrum Health Systems recently co-sponsored with Veterans, Inc. a one-day conference entitled, “After the Return Home: Helping Veterans and Families Heal from Substance Abuse and Trauma.”

In October, General George Casey, the chief of staff of the U.S. Army, called posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) "the defining military health issue of our era." Other serious mental health issues facing soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan include anxiety, depression, substance abuse and traumatic brain injury.

“After the Return Home” addressed these concerns which affect both military personnel and their families with informational presentations, personal experiences, resource tables and a panel discussion.

The panel was moderated by Spectrum’s vice president of clinical development, Romas Buivydas, PhD, LMHC, and included Kevin Lambert of the Department of Veterans’ Services, Dr. Gretchen Hegeman, the director of psychological health for the Maine National Guard, Glenn Smith, LICSW, of Veterans, Inc., and U.S. Army Captain Joshua Mantz.

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“The Army has recognized that there is a lot more to well-being than being physically fit,” stated Capt. Mantz, an advocate for the Army’s Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Program. Captain Mantz also stressed the need for persistence in getting soldiers to the right level of care and more leadership in dealing with mental health issues.

Mr. Lambert, who served a 16-month combat tour of duty in Iraq, explained that there is not a lack of services for veterans, but a lack of coordination of services. The stigma associated with mental health issues in the military is also a problem, according to Mr. Lambert.

“If there’s one thing I try to tell vets about getting help, it’s that they didn’t successfully raid that building in Iraq alone. It was done by a group working together. And they are not going to be successful in this alone. They need to work with the services that are available,” said Mr. Lambert.

Resource tables at the conference were provided by the VA Boston Health Care System, Strategic Outreach to Families of All Reservists (SOFAR), Worcester State University, Statewide Advocacy for Veterans’ Empowerment (S.A.V.E.) and Wounded Warriors Family Support.

Andrew Strecker, Development Associate 
(508) 792-5400 x7113 

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