By Jenny Collins, Naval Center for Combat & Operational Stress Control Public Affairs
When a child is physically hurt, they go to a nurse or physician to help them heal. When a child is mentally or emotionally hurting, an option would be to go to a clinical psychologist. That’s what military spouses and parents, Army spouse Kristi Rayder and Marine Corps spouse Marie Charron, did when they sensed that their children needed help coping with their stressors and emotions.
“Five years ago, we sought out a child psychologist when my son, Kyle, experienced severe depression and suicidal thoughts, and were introduced to Capt. Scott Johnston, Director of Naval Center for Combat & Operational Stress Control and assistant specialty leader for Navy clinical psychology, as a result,” Rayder said. “Following his work with Capt. Johnston, Kyle went on to play high school football, was voted homecoming king, earned the rank of Eagle Scout, graduated high school in 2014, and is now finishing his first year of college abroad.”
When a child’s emotional or mental issues do not resolve within a reasonable time-frame, psychological intervention is recommended. Therapy offers children the opportunity to identify, discuss, and understand problems and helps them to develop the necessary coping skills. Therapy also provides the opportunity to address concerns with the parents, educate parents regarding their child’s unique needs, and assist in meeting these needs in an appropriate method.
“Right from the beginning, I felt that Capt. Johnston was someone that I could open up to and tell what I was feeling as well as my sons and then also my daughter. He is very easy to talk to and makes you feel very comfortable,” Charron said. “He is funny, compassionate and considerate of our feelings. He doesn’t judge or make me feel like I am not doing a good job as a parent.”
Military children often face unique stressors such as moving often, having one or more parents deployed, having a parent with PTSD, or knowing a parent works in a potentially dangerous profession. Military psychologist can help families work through these worries and resolve problems effectively.
“Kyle expressed to me that he would be nowhere near where he is today without his work with Capt. Johnston. His treatment has allowed him to experience life and live to his fullest potential,” Rayder said. “Kyle also kept referring to his journey through the mental health treatment process as ‘our’ journey [with Capt. Johnston] and that ‘we’ did it.”
Despite increasing acceptance and public awareness, there is still a stigma associated with seeking help from mental health professionals. One of the initiatives of NCCOSC is to decrease the shame associated with mental health. Seeking professional help is a suitable course of action in situations that go unresolved.
Rayder also added “All parents should encourage their children to seek mental health counseling from a qualified professional before it becomes critical or before it is too late.”
Johnston says clinical work remains one of the most gratifying experiences of his Navy career.
“Despite the fact that I see my young clients during some of the toughest, darkest hours of their lives, I also tend to see them at their best,” Johnston said. “Becoming a Navy clinical psychologist has been one of the most rewarding decisions I have ever made. I am proud to serve the Sailors and Marines of the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps as well as their family members.”
If you are seeking mental health assistance for yourself or a family member, please contact your local health provider.