Mental health care centers call for early interaction on mental health of military children

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) — Whether it’s moving every few years or having parents deployed out of the country, adaptability is a common skill for military kids.

“The reality of resilience in our military children is so paramount,” said MaryBeth Goodman.

However, just because military children are used to change doesn’t mean they’re immune to impact, according to Goodman, clinic director of the Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at Alaska Behavioral Health.

Goodman said that at clinics in Alaska, 42% of their clients are young or under 18. The clinic serves all those who have served in the military and their relatives. The clinic said early interaction is key when dealing with a mental health issue.

“Is there a mental health issue that we can address early before it becomes a mental health crisis?” Goodman asked rhetorically.

According to Goodman, the average military child changes schools six to nine times before graduating from high school. These children, she says, understand change and often have life experiences that most children in the civilian world do not have.

“Usually when the military kids finally show you they’re struggling, we’re a little further down the road,” Goodman said.

It makes it more critical, Goodman said, that when they ask for help, action is taken immediately.

“Usually when we see a military child who expresses the need to talk to someone, we take it extremely seriously because they’ve been through so much already and they might be closer to that breaking point than a civilian child,” Goodman said.

According to Goodman, signs of mental health issues in young service members can include anxiety, behavioral changes, increased frustration and arguments at home. She said early interaction at a family’s current station is key.

She encourages families to contact their current base to see what mental health options are available and avoid waiting until the last moment.

“It’s very, very hard to say, ‘Oh, we’ll deal with it next week,’ because for a military family, next week could bring a whole new wave of challenges and changes,” Goodman said.

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