516th Signal Bde. hosts PTSD workshops, retreat for deployed Soldiers’ spouses

| September 9, 2010 | 0 Comments

Chaplain (Maj.) Richard P. Graves
516th Signal Brigade, 311th Signal Command

FORT SHAFTER — The 516th Signal Brigade, 311th Signal Command, hosted a series of workshops led by Dr. Bridget Cantrell, a nationally-acclaimed health care provider, author and lecturer on post traumatic stress disorder and combat operational stress, Aug. 31-Sept. 5.

Cantrell met with more than 60 chaplains and chaplains’ assistants at the Religious Activities Center, here, Sept. 2. She spoke about the effects of combat stress on those who minister to, and serve with, combat Soldiers downrange.

“Caregivers are notorious for neglecting their own well-being and not taking care of themselves,” Cantrell said. “They are so busy taking care of others that they often put their own issues on hold and keep their concerns to themselves … it is imperative that the caregivers have a confidante, someone they can talk to and share their feelings.”

Later that afternoon, she spoke to military chaplains, clergy and civilian mental health professionals at the Main Post Chapel, Schofield Barracks, about the causes and symptoms of PTSD. She said that she dislikes the inclusion of the term “disorder” and much prefers the word “condition.”  

“I believe that the term disorder is misleading, as it implies that there is something negative about the diagnosis, when in fact, what these individuals are experiencing is a normal response to an abnormal situation,” Cantrell said. 

Cantrell was also the featured speaker for a three-day retreat at Turtle Bay Resort on the North Shore, Friday-Sunday, which was sponsored by the 516th Signal Bde. About 30 spouses of deployed Soldiers from the 307th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, headquartered at Helemanu Military Reservation, attended. 

Cantrell explained how deployments can affect relationships between Soldier and spouse, Soldier and child, and spouse and child. She emphasized the importance of communication, planning in advance for a deployment and networking with other spouses. 

She gave the spouses presentations on combat operational stress and PTSD. She spoke about changes that spouses may notice in their Soldier when he or she returns from deployment, and offered techniques on how to identify, expect and cope with certain behaviors and mannerisms that may have been acquired downrange. 

Also, she discussed the effects of performing a job while maintaining high levels of situational awareness and alertness for long periods of time, as service members often must do during deployment. These effects include hyper-vigilance, road rage, withdrawal, startled reflexes and strong language.   

In a group discussion Saturday afternoon, Cantrell opened the floor and took suggestions and comments from the spouses, allowing them to talk openly and frankly about their issues, frustrations, concerns and questions. 

As a result, many of the spouses addressed individual and common challenges, and met others who have had similar or shared experiences. They shared ideas and advice, made new friends and found mentors. 

The retreat continued Sunday with a morning session, led by Mel Kinoshita, Army Community Service, focused on well-being and self-care. 

Cantrell has been working with veterans and PTSD for more than 20 years. She is a private practitioner and a mental health provider for the Washington State Department of Veterans’ Affairs. She has published three books: “Down Range, To Iraq and Back,” “Once a Warrior, Wired For Life,” and “Souls Under Siege.”

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