NHCL brings mental health providers closer to troops, opens more group programs

24 Aug 2012 | Lance Cpl. Jackeline M. Perez Rivera

In 1958 Marie Johada, a social psychologist, said the ideal state of mental health is a self-reliant individual with good sense of self-perception, realistic self-esteem, voluntary control of behavior, with a true perception of the world who is self-directed and productive person who sustains relationships and can give affection. 


When those traits are lost people can suffer from an inability to function adequately. Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune has taken steps to change the way mental health care functions by opening many programs and by bringing providers closer to the troops they serve.


Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune’s Mental Health Department has grown from eight providers in 2008 to 40 today.

“By increasing the number of providers we are able to capture more of the patients that need to be seen within our walls,” said Cmdr. Sawsan Ghurani, the director of the Mental Health Department at NHCL. “We can better understand the needs of the military as well as the patient and we can get them back to fighting shape.”


Mental illnesses can cause a deviation to behavior and feelings due to a person’s biology, such as, through a chemical imbalance or a thyroid problem, a social issue such as relationship issues or work stressors or psychological reasons, such as post traumatic stress disorder.   


They provide individual counseling and medical care along with over a dozen group therapy programs to help people in the best way that suits them. Yoga classes and art therapy are included along with group therapy classes such as cognitive behavioral therapy and combat stress groups.


“Groups like art therapy give people different ways to communicate,” said Ghurani. “Some people can’t express their feelings and their thoughts through words so they need different methods.” naming


The Mental Health Department is also bringing providers closer to the troops with its Behavioral Health Team Model, a program that sets teams of providers with specific units so providers can build rapport with a unit’s leadership and medical teams. 


Many struggle to seek help for mental health issues; they fight stigma and the fear it could affect their career. However, most conditions can be treated and service members can continue to be a part of the military while seeking treatment.


Ghurani believes education about mental health issues along with the support of one’s colleagues and leadership can be greatly beneficial to a service member’s mental well being.


“Leaders need to know they’ll get more work out of a Marine if their psyche is functioning properly,” said Ghurani. “It’s like if somebody sprains their ankle. If they keep running on it rather than letting it rest, eventually that person won’t be able to run at all.” 


According to a study by Harvard Medical School, mental health issues are common, affecting a quarter of Americans. The military is a microcosm of society with representatives of every aspect, including those who deal with mental health issues.


For more information about mental health services aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune call 451-5466.