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Thursday, November 19, 2009

AFP Medical Staff and JSOTF-P Teach Mental Health Classes

By Lt.j.g. Theresa Donnelly, Joint Special Operations Task Force Philippines Public Affairs

ZAMBOANGA, Philippines – Members of the Camp Navarro General Hospital and the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P) Chaplain team taught more than 70 care providers crisis intervention management techniques at the Western Mindanao Command (WESTMINCOM) Nov. 16-18.

The classes focused on the hidden scars of the battlefield, the psychological wounds, which affect many members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). Participants included hospital staff, volunteer Red Cross workers, AFP Soldiers and Marine wives whose husbands are engaged in combat operations.

“Some of our deepest wounds of war are in our hearts, our souls and our minds. We must find effective treatments for these wounds. We may not be wounded in violence, but wounded inside,” said Col. Jose Johriel M. Cenabre, chief of staff for WESTMINCOM.The class was taught jointly by the Camp Navarro General Hospital Psychologist Lolina Necesario Bajin and JSOTF-P Chaplain Assistant Rose Gould.

A reservist in the U.S. Air Force, Gould brought more than 20 years of experience to the class. She has experience working with trauma victims in a military environment, as well as her career helping people deal with the impact of humanitarian crises, critical incidents, and war zones.

Seminars focused on several areas aspects of combat stress from psychological first aid for man-made disasters to family crisis intervention. One seminar focused on how to explain to a child the appearance of their parents after being wounded in battlefield.

The intent of the class was to train select members who will then go back to their respective units and teach others. All participants received their own packet with all the training materials, including copies of the lectures, videos and handouts.

This is the first time JSOTF-P and the hospital staff have partnered for this type of training. In the future, the team hopes to have more seminars to help those who provide care for others.

At times the class conversations became quite emotional. Many of the participants expressed their appreciation for the seminar and the help it has provided for them.

“We can now take what we have learned and conduct our own training at WESTMINCOM for all those who were unable to attend,” said Bajin. “This training is so important because there is so much happening here in terms of disasters, armed conflict and man-made incidents and we have to know how to effectively respond.”

At the conclusion of the three-day course, participants received graduation certificates and an increased understanding and best practices on how to effectively treat the psychological effects of war.

“It’s easy to identify and appreciate the sacrifice Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airman when they bear visible physical injury from the execution of their duty,” said Lt. Col David Smith, the JSOTF-P chief of staff.

“However, it is much more difficult to identify mental injuries. The need to provide care to people with these types of problems is very real,” he said.

At the request of the Philippine government, JSOTF-P partners with the Armed Forces of the Philippines in a variety of subject matter exchanges, humanitarian missions and construction projects in the southern Philippines.

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