Mental health focus of conference at Camp Ripley

April 20, 2016 (CAMP RIPLEY, Minnesota) — Yellow Ribbon community members, military leaders, and mental health professionals attended the Military Mental Health Initiative Conference April 12-14 at Camp Ripley.

Several guest speakers, along with military personnel and field professionals, met to unite community mental health providers with existing services and resources for worthwhile, up-to-date support to service members, veterans and families.

“Our objective here is to assist in facilitating a seamless transition for care between civilian and military behavioral health providers for Minnesota National Guard service members and their families,” said Rebekah Pulju, behavior health officer with the Minnesota National Guard.

The Military Mental Health Initiative Committee first held its annual Mental Health Conference in April of 2015. The positive results that came from a plan designed to educate attendees on military culture and how it related to issues that providers and military members face encouraged further outreach on the subject.

The conference integrated community mental health providers in an effort to support and assist Minnesota service members not only while on duty but within their own communities as well.

“The Military Mental Health Initiative Committee is a multi-organizational, statewide committee aimed to improve the understanding of military culture,” said Shelby Hadley, board member with the MMHIC. “Also, to increase awareness of existing resources throughout Minnesota, and expand access to high-quality care and treatment services offered by providers and professionals throughout the state.”

The objectives for this year’s conference include the opportunities for community mental health providers to understand the dynamics of military culture and how service members approach mental health on and off duty.

The collaboration between civilian and military mental health providers began finding an answer on providing assistance to not only currently serving personnel but those who no longer have their traditional coping system in place such as veterans, retirees or discharges men and women.

“Best conference I’ve been to in 20 years in the field. They did a great job and presenting intelligently and respectfully. I appreciated visiting Camp Ripley,” said Roy Neumann, therapist at Northern Pines Mental Health Center.

Guest speakers included former Minnesota National Guard member Dajon Farrell, who presented on her experiences with alternate healing modalities “Choosing Meditation over Medication,” as well as Stephanie Bertucci, discussing the potential costs of coping with trauma and reintegration through substance use.

Other presentations talked about the darker issues facing service members and their families. Sgt. 1st Class Joshua Guyse with the Minnesota National Guard talked about his battle with PTSD, referring to it as moving from “Darkness to the Light.”

“Moving forward we would like to help break down the confusion that Service members and providers may have about seeking help in the case of mental health concerns,” said Mary Gales-Wenz, military family life consultant with the Minnesota National Guard.

by Staff Sgt. Anthony Housey
Camp Ripley Public Affairs