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Commentary by Lt. Col. Judith Hughes, 45th Medical Group

9/6/2007 - The last time I wrote an article for the Missileer, I shared my belief in the motto of "Mission First - People Always." I also believe that the psychological well-being of our personnel and their families directly impacts mission effectiveness.

Stress, whether personal, work place or relationship induced is associated with a wide range of social and psychological problems including depression, anxiety, substance abuse, family maltreatment, physical complaints and health problems. These problems are costly to the Air Force and research has shown that a significant proportion of our Airmen at-risk are not reached by typical helping approaches.

In 2006, the 45th Space Wing volunteered to participate in a DoD-sponsored research initiative called NORTH STAR. The goal was to look at the prevalence of "secretive problems," a problem a member has experienced that no one in the base community knew about. Results from this survey revealed that an astonishing 32 percent of our people reported having at least one of the following secretive problems: self-injurious/suicidal behaviors, substance abuse or family maltreatment.

Many individuals do not seek help for their secretive behaviors because of the associated stigma and concerns about their military career. NORTH STAR provides many options for individuals that do not necessarily force them to identify themselves to the helping agencies.

The base helping agencies who together form the Integrated Delivery System chose four specific NORTH STAR interventions to implement in the Patrick community. Following is a brief summary of each program:

Relate and Couple Care are two relationship enhancement tools that couples may use to assess and make positive changes to their relationships and are available from the Airman and Family Readiness Center and the Chaplains.

Moodgym is an interactive online tool that teaches individuals how to modify their thinking and behavior to reduce stress, better manage their emotions, improve communication and self-esteem and improve overall coping. The Mental Health Clinic is the point of contact, but the website can be accessed at

Parenting Newsletter is an age-paced (0-3 years) newsletter that provides practical child development and parenting information that is delivered to parents via email.

I encourage everyone to spread the word about these new programs. Although the medical community has primary responsibility for intervening in family maltreatment and substance abuse, everyone in the community shares responsibility for prevention of these problems. By increasing the protective factors and resilience of the entire community, individuals become more capable to respond to demands and stress, are less likely to develop significant problems, and are better prepared to manage issues that arise.

Remember: People Always!

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