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Inside the Gates: Mental health care centers call for early interaction on military children’s mental health

According to the clinic, in their Alaska clinics, 42% of their clients are youth.
Published: Apr. 27, 2022 at 1:36 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - From moving every few years to having parents deploying out of the country, adaptability is a common skill set for military children.

“The reality of resilience in our military children is so paramount,” MaryBeth Goodman said.

However, just because military children are used to changes, it does not mean they are immune to the impacts, according to Goodman, the clinic director at the Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at Alaska Behavioral Health.

Goodman said in the Alaska clinics, 42% of their clients are youth, or those under age 18. The clinic services anyone who has served in the military and their loved ones. The clinic said early interaction is critical when dealing with a mental health challenge.

“Is there a mental health issue that we can solve early on before it becomes a mental health crisis?” Goodman asked rhetorically.

According to Goodman, the average military child changes school six to nine times before they graduate high school. These kids, she said, understand change and often undergo life experiences that most children in the civilian world have not.

“Typically, when military kiddos finally show you that they’re struggling, we’re a little bit further down the road,” Goodman said.

This makes it more critical, Goodman said, that when they ask for help, action is taken right away.

“Typically when we see a military kiddo who is expressing the need to talk to someone, we take it incredibly seriously because they’ve already endured so much and they might be closer to that breaking point than a civilian child,” Goodman said.

According to Goodman, signs of mental health problems in military youth can include anxiety, changes in behavior, increased frustration and arguments at home. She said that early interaction at a family’s current station is critical.

She encourages families to reach out to their current base to see what mental health options are available and avoid waiting until the last moment.

“That is very, very difficult to say, ‘Oh, we’ll handle it next week,’ because for a military family, next week might bring a whole new onslaught of challenges and changes,” Goodman said.

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