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Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro directed the immediate implementation of the Brandon Act on Tuesday, July 11, in alignment with Department of Defense Directive-type Memorandum 23-005, “Self-Initiated Referral Process for Mental Health Evaluations of Service Members.”
The Brandon Act honors the life of Petty Officer Third Class Brandon Caserta by allowing service members to seek help confidentially for any reason, at any time, and in any environment, thereby reducing the stigma associated with seeking mental health care.
The directive underscores the critical role of engaged leadership in prioritizing, normalizing, and promoting mental health. It charges commanding officers and supervisors to:
· Ensure service members understand the procedures to request a referral for a mental health evaluation (MHE);
· Ensure service members who request a MHE are referred to a provider as soon as practicable;
· Treat referrals for MHEs in a manner similar to referrals for other medical services, to the maximum extent practicable;
· Maintain privacy protections and reduce stigma by not requesting information from mental health providers regarding the results of the MHE except for information that may be disclosed to a command in accordance with DTM 23-005; and
· Receive sufficient training to recognize personnel who may require MHEs based on behaviors that indicate the individual may be an imminent danger to self.
“High-performing teams start with leaders who model trust, connection, respect, and teamwork,” said Del Toro. “Leaders have a tremendous impact on their followers; sharing positive experiences with the behavioral health system, maintaining the privacy and confidentiality for team members who seek care, and promoting the process for self-referrals can significantly reduce service member concerns around seeking help.”
Implementation of the Brandon Act empowers Sailors and Marines to directly seek mental health services as desired from various medical and nonmedical mental health resources.
“Seeking help is a sign of strength,” said Capt. Christine O’Connell, acting director, Department of the Navy Office of Force Resiliency. “It requires courage, vulnerability, and a deep understanding of our own humanity. It is a powerful act that fosters connection and ultimately propels us toward personal and collective growth.”
Mental health services are available at military medical treatment facilities, within operational units, and virtually. Non-medical mental health resources are available through:
· Fleet and Family Support Centers
· Marine Corps Community Services
· Military and Family Life Counselors
· Deployment Resiliency Counselors
“Maintaining naval superiority requires leaders to establish psychologically safe environments, as well as foster team members who promote each other’s well-being and the personal self-awareness to know when they need increased support,” said Del Toro. “We have a duty to normalize mental health conversations and focus on mental fitness with the same determination we use to foster physical health.”
Leaders are encouraged to utilize the Navy’s Mental Health Playbook. Rolled out in February 2023, the playbook is designed to assist in preventing, mitigating, and addressing mental health issues within their commands.
The DON also provides a comprehensive Civilian Employee Assistance Program (DONCEAP), which provides work-life resources for childcare, finances, eldercare, identity theft, legal services, alcohol and substance abuse, and more. Services are offered at no charge and are confidential within the limits of the law.
Implementation of Brandon Act ALNAV: https://www.mynavyhr.navy.mil/Portals/55/Messages/ALNAV/ALN2023/ALN23054.txt
Civilian Employee Assistance Program (DONCEAP): https://www.secnav.navy.mil/donhr/Employees/Pages/Default.aspx?#donceap
Navy Mental Health Playbook: https://www.mynavyhr.navy.mil/Portals/55/Support/Culture%20Resilience/Leaders_Toolkit/Mental_Health_Playbook_February_2023.pdf?ver=BtNiypJpz3vr4HWFQUbuDQ%3d%3d
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