SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --
The mental health of service members is a major focus across the Department of Defense, but another concern is the well-being of military families.
Capt. Louis Pagano, 21st Medical Squadron mental health service chief and director of psychological health, said taking care of families is directly tied to taking care of the mission.
“Your satellite operator is not going to be focused at work if their kid is unwell, their spouse isn’t able to access services, or whatever the family is dealing with; a family’s health is just as important as a service member’s,” he said.
Melissa Hermosillo, 21st Medical Squadron administrative assistant and key spouse, said families are a unit just like the squadron and anything affecting a squadron can affect the family.
“Some of our family members face a lot of challenges, it can feel isolating arriving at a new base or experiencing grief from within their own family,” she said.
According to Hermosillo, when family members are not focused on their own mental health it can have a negative effect on the family unit.
“It can impact the children within the family unit or even family members outside of the core unit,” she said. “It is not limited to just those within that immediate unit. It encompasses parents and siblings, so it has a ripple effect of worry outside of the core. Taking care of the mental health of everyone is really a priority.”
The military affords families medical care access through TRICARE, allowing them to see by a provider at military medical clinics or hospitals. Families of military members also have the option of seeing a health care provider within the community via the TRICARE network.
“Military members and their dependents have access to resources such as couples counseling, parenting classes and classes for ongoing concerns,” Pagano said.
Knowing what health and wellness services are available can ease the stresses of moves and transitions and it a make little easier for members and their families.
“[Dependents] should know they are not alone,” she said. “Support can be found at the Airman and Family Readiness Center, Military OneSource, military family life consultants, Give An Hour, and key spouse program.”
As a key spouse, Hermosillo said she always likes to make sure families are welcome as they arrive and know what is available to them, but it’s not just families.
“Single service members are a part of the key spouse program as well, and sometimes even the parents of the single service member, because they are experiencing something new as well,” she said.
There are a wide array of health and wellness agencies and resources not only in the Air Force community, but also within the Front Range available to military members and their families.
Pagano said, the Defense Health Agency has reorganized how medical groups are placing emphasis on military dependents and their health.
“We have squadrons now dedicated to taking care of families and retirees because we know it’s that important,” he said. “Less than one percent of the country serves in the military and we are an all-volunteer force. People don’t usually join the military unless they have someone in their family who served in the military. Taking care of the family is taking care of the military’s future.”
Military family members assigned to a military hospital or clinic can talk to their primary care manager, schedule a Behavioral Health Optimization Program appointment, visit www.tricareonline.com or call 719-567-HELP (4357) for more information about available resources.