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Local News | Aug. 5, 2021

An Expo Emphasis on Mental Health and Wellness

As Navy Lt. Maxwell Anderson calmly addressed a seated crowd during the Mental Health and Wellness Expo 2021, he asked those in attendance to focus on the concept of mindfulness.As a staff psychologist attached to Navy Medicine and Training Command (NMRTC) Bremerton, Anderson explained how mindfulness allows someone to be aware in the present, away

As Navy Lt. Maxwell Anderson calmly addressed a seated crowd during the Mental Health and Wellness Expo 2021, he asked those in attendance to focus on the concept of mindfulness.

As a staff psychologist attached to Navy Medicine and Training Command (NMRTC) Bremerton, Anderson explained how mindfulness allows someone to be aware in the present, away from lingering on the previous or wondering about the forthcoming.

“We can use our five senses of sight, sound, smell, taste and touch to bring us into the present and help alleviate any stress or anxiety. We’re not in the past or into the future. We’re in the moment,” said Anderson, recommending to use a 5-4-3-2-1 countdown method of the senses to aid in accenting attention on the senses to completely concentrate on the right-now.

“Ask yourself, ‘what are five sights you see right now?’ What are four sounds? Three smells?” Anderson rhetorically asked.

The short presentation by Anderson was but one facet of the expo held August 5, 2021 and sponsored by NMRTC Bremerton and Naval Base Kitsap Fleet & Family Support Center.

“It was really neat to see all the resources come together. We had Sailors and a few families visit all who were here setting up. We also had the vendors networking with each other. Obviously during the pandemic we have not had the opportunity to do this. Being able to have face-to-face communication again with our service members is such a valuable resource,” said Navy Chaplain, Lt. Cmdr. John Tarr, assigned to NHB/NMRTC Bremerton and event organizer.

The event featured a variety of resources from throughout Navy Region Northwest that focus on promoting awareness of opportunities and resources to enhance health and well-being, while also helping active duty members and their families connect to support and services when needed.

“This was not my doing,” insisted Tarr. “I am humbled and impressed how easy it was to put together. When we asked if someone could participate, they were already lining up their resources and getting their displays and information ready.”

Resources on display came from NMRTC Bremerton Mental Health department featuring Substance Abuse Rehabilitation Program (SARP) and Tobacco Cessation, Health Promotions and Chaplain Services/Pastoral Care; Chaplains Religious Enrichment Development Operation (CREDO) Northwest, NBK Morale Welfare and Recreation, local Navy ombudsman, Navy Exchange and Navy Commissary, Wounded Warrior program, Navy Marine Corps Relief Society, NBK Fleet and Family Support (FFSC) Center Work and Family Life, Employment Assistance and Clinical Services, Navy School Liaison, Brandman University and the US Naval Undersea Museum STEM program.

With the overarching theme of mental health and wellness, there was information presented on ‘mental health during the pandemic’; SARP, military mental health: ‘what and how’ and ‘mental health myths busted.’

Debunking mental health myths included such examples as the myth, ‘seeking help means I am weak.’

The fact is that just as physical fitness is a central part of military life, good mental health is just as important for a person’s well-being, as well as military and family readiness. Mental health challenges shouldn’t be ignored or hidden. Seeking help early to improve performance is a sign of strength and commitment.

Another myth is that ‘seeking help will ruin my career.’

Fact: The Department of Defense acknowledges that untreated mental health conditions pose a threat to readiness and occupational performance, and therefore, seeking help for a mental health condition is consistent with a commitment to readiness and is encouraged.

Myth: ‘seeking help won’t make a difference.’

Fact: In psychotherapy, psychologists apply scientifically validated procedures to help people develop healthier, more effective habits. There are several approaches to psychotherapy, including cognitive, behavioral, interpersonal and other kinds of talk therapy, which help individuals work through their problem(s).

For Senior Chief Engineman John Antoine, SARP counselor, being able to talk to Sailors as they came by the assembled display tables was a perfect opportunity to explain about SARP.

“We break it down. Addiction is not a choice. It’s not a moral failure or a sign of weakness or a matter of willpower. It’s not something that solves itself either or should be faced alone,” explained Antoine, adding that addiction is a mental disorder characterized by compulsive consumption or behaviors despite negative consequences.

Although SARP for many is associated with providing help in handling such substance addictions as alcohol, prescription drugs or narcotics, Antoine notes there are also common behavioral addictions such as food, pornography and exercise.

“If a person is playing video games for hours at a time and neglecting other aspects of their life, then there’s a possibility of being addicted. An addiction is created when our brain’s reward system is rewired by constant use of a substance or engagement in an activity,” Antoine said.

Antoine stressed that experts are in agreement that addiction is a real disease and not a moral weakness or a character flaw.

“We strive to dig deep. Such as, what’s the root cause of someone drinking to cope? It’s usually a symptom of something deeper,” said Antoine.

For those who missed the expo and wish more information on mental health resources, please call NMRTC Bremerton’s Mental Health department, 360-475-4219.

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