Bonhomme Richard's New Mental Health Team

Story Number: NNS160928-06Release Date: 9/28/2016 9:30:00 AM
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By By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kyle Carlstrom, USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) Public Affairs

PHILIPPINE SEA (NNS) -- Amphibious assault ships, such as USS Bonhomme Richard's (LHD 6) medical department support a secondary mission and can provide the capabilities of a small hospital, including its own radiology department, X-ray technicians, laboratories, pharmacy and enough racks for more than 300 patients.

Lt. Miguel Magsaysay Alampay, a staff psychiatrist, commonly referred to as the "Psych Boss," and Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Rose Hersom, a behavior health technician, arrived in April 2016 providing an additional invaluable resource to service members aboard the ship and for the Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG). The role of the Expeditionary Psychiatry (EP) Program is the conduct of continuous behavioral health surveillance, consultation and education operations throughout the various surface platforms in a designated area of responsibility (AOR).

With the inclusion of a mental health team, Sailors and Marines now have another alternative along with the chaplains and deployment resiliency counselor (DRC) if they are feeling stressed, depressed or even having thoughts of suicide.

"Supporting the ESG Sailors and the Marines of the 31st MEU [Marine Expeditionary Unit] is our main mission," said Alampay. "By providing mental health care which includes improving performance, coping skills, resilience and decreasing the chance for a mental crises or medical evacuation, we are able to preserve and improve the combat-force."

Alampay said the purpose of the U.S. Navy's EP program is to maximize fleet-wide readiness and effectiveness through embedded psychiatry. Through this, the EP Program has four goals to attain.

"We provide direct input to the chain of command regarding the command's behavioral health climate," said Alampay. "We also support and supplement the management of behavioral health conditions by the medical assets belonging to the various platforms in the EP Psychiatrist's designated AOR. We then deliver specialty behavioral health care in close coordination with the chain of command while simultaneously improving the quality of care for the Sailor or embarked Marine."

Another goal for the psychiatric team is to educate the Sailors and Marines aboard Bonhomme Richard about stress, and how to recognize and handle stress in their lives.

"Stress by no means says you're sick," said Alampay. "Everyone has stress in their lives at some point or another. What we try to do is help Sailors and Marines identify that stress, what's causing it and how they can work it out. Once you're able to figure out how to handle it, there's a great sense of relief for the individual."

During patrols, Alampay and Hersom hold weekly classes twice a week.

"We were spot billeted to be here to help provide greater support for the Sailors and Marines while they're out here," said Hersom. "We offer different types of therapy including cognitive behavior therapy and rational emotive behavioral therapy along with two groups. There's a processing group on Fridays where Sailors with any type of personal issue can come together in a safe environment so they know they're not the only one having their experience. On Thursdays we have a guided group that teaches skills like distress tolerance and interpersonal relationship skills."

With eight ships, including Bonhomme Richard, homeported in Sasebo, Alampay and Hersom have a large number of Sailors and Marines to take care of.

"We are here for all the ships in Sasebo," said Alamapay. "We are responsible for nearly 6,000 Sailors and Marines."

Hersom said she decided to become a Hospital Corpsman in order to provide help to those who need it.

"I actually don't like blood," said Hersom. "I know it's odd, but I don't like seeing people in pain. So I wanted to find another way to help the Sailors and Marines we have on board. By having additional training in mental health and recognizing body language, I can provide an additional outlet for the crew of Bonhomme Richard or the Marines."

The medical department also includes operating rooms and a dental clinic with a dentist and a team of specialized hospital corpsmen.

September is Suicide Prevention Month, and the Navy strives to inform every Sailor, civilian and their family members to know seeking help is a sign of strength. Recently the Navy's 21st Century Sailor Office announced the new suicide prevention program known as Sailor Assistance and Intercept for Life (SAIL), aimed at supplementing existing mental health treatment by providing continual support through the first 90 days after suicide-related behavior.

Suicide Prevention is a cooperative Navy-wide effort that takes leadership engagement and awareness at all commands and ranks. The Navy and other organizations work together to provide a range of resources to include: mental health treatment, spiritual counseling, personal wellness counseling, crisis intervention as well as financial education.

Bonhomme Richard, flagship of the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group, is currently participating in VS16. VS16 is a biennial, U.S.-only, field training exercise (FTX) with a focus on integration of joint training among U.S. forces. This training enables real-world proficiency in sustaining joint forces through detecting, locating, tracking and engaging units at sea, in the air, on land, and in cyberspace in response to a range of mission areas.

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