Government & Politics
3:30 am
Mon November 11, 2013

PA National Guard Encourages Soldiers to Seek Mental Health Treatment If Needed

On this Veterans Day, the Pennsylvania National Guard is encouraging service members to seek mental help if they need it — and disclose when they’re doing so.  

At a forum in Harrisburg recently, guard members acknowledged a “prevalent” misconception among soldiers that reporting they’re seeking help could disrupt their career or mean losing their security clearance.

Capt. Sarah Lambert is a coordinator for the Guard’s Resilience, Risk Reduction and Suicide Prevention program.

She says the first step is reassuring soldiers they should report what problems they’re having.

The second move, she says, is to explain why it’s important – to ensure they’re qualified for service.

"If you have a bum knee, if you’re suffering from depression, you’re not 100 percent, and that’s dangerous to you. It’s dangerous to the people to your left and to your right," she said. "So we really have to change our language and not make it a negative thing, like, say, ‘Hey, you have this going on and we’re going to make you better.'"

Lambert says the Guard is trying to train commanding officers to address such concerns among their soldiers.

She says another big help has come in the way of increased federal funding to support counseling programs.