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Mullen Encourages Troops to Seek Mental Health Care When Needed

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

FORT DRUM, N.Y., Feb. 9, 2009 – The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff emphasized the importance of de-stigmatizing mental-health care for returning war veterans today as he cut the ribbon on a newly renovated facility designed to improve that care.

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, paying his first visit to the home of the 10th Mountain Division, presided at the official opening a new, state-of-the-art, mental health facility.

Speaking earlier in the day at town hall sessions with junior soldiers and family readiness group leaders, Mullen said the military needs to do a better job of encouraging people who need it to seek mental-health care services.

“We’ve got to work hard to meet the need, and actually get ahead of, the challenges we have,” he said. “I think we’re all in denial if we don’t recognize the huge, huge stress [multiple deployments have] put our force and our families under.

“Leaders have to address that, and address it up front,” he said.

Mullen cited disturbing suicide rates in the Army, and urged soldiers to “take care of each other” and recognize symptoms of post-traumatic stress and other difficulties. He also urged spouses to be on the lookout for problems. “We have to have every sensor out,” he said.

Families, too, can experience secondary signs of post-traumatic stress, he said, with the accompanying depression, sleeplessness and fear.

“This is human stuff,” Mullen told the group. “It’s not unexpected.”

The big hurdle, Mullen said, is getting people who need it to seek care without fear that it will damage their reputation or military career.

Fort Drum’s new Wilcox Center was renovated to provide that much-needed care in a modern, state-of-the-art facility. A two-year renovation added 2,000 square feet to the World War II-era facilities it replaced, increasing its overall size to more than 28,000 square feet.

Mullen toured the center, which includes more space for the post’s behaviorial health department, offering more than 70 new office spaces, three reception areas and multiple group meeting rooms and video tele-psychiatry offices.

The main reception area features a large, domed skylight and children's waiting area that creates a welcoming atmosphere for soldiers and their families and providers. An expanded records storage area and up-to-date automation systems help to increase the staff’s ability to provide care for soldiers and their families.

Dr. Todd L. Benham, chief of Fort Drum’s behavioral health department, had rave reviews about the building.

"The Wilcox Clinic is truly an amazing facility,” he said. “Once you step inside, you will see that the Army, the North Atlantic Regional Medical Command and Fort Drum have worked diligently to make a facility that shows the importance of caring for soldiers and their families."

Army Maj. Ross A. Davidson, the Army Medical Department Activity’s logistics chief, said the new clinic demonstrates the Army’s commitment to troops and their families.

“This beautiful facility is the direct result of a committed team's effort to plan, develop, and build a facility dedicated to improving the health of our soldiers and the Fort Drum community,” he said.

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Biographies:
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen

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