Dear Annie: The Army’s recent report of an increase in the suicide rate among soldiers sheds light on an important public health issue. It also highlights the need to create greater awareness around the challenges affecting the men and women serving in our armed forces, as well as the many services available to them through the Department of Defense and other organizations.
After 29 years of military service, I recently retired and began a new chapter of service to my country and comrades. In dealing with my own struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder, I have been sharing my personal experience with veterans and active duty members, and encouraging them to acknowledge and seek help for emotional health issues. In my efforts, I hope to not only help prevent the tragedy of suicide, but also to help our brave warriors overcome the too common lack of understanding about mental health issues.
Please join me in spreading the word about the importance of seeking help. One resource available is the Mental Health Self-Assessment Program (MHSAP), which offers veterans, service members and their families information on how to manage the stress of military life and provides self-assessments for a range of emotional health issues. The assessments are free and anonymous and can be accessed at www.MilitaryMentalHealth.org or by calling (877) 877-3647. After completing a self-assessment, individuals receive information on how to get help.
It is important for service members to know that PTSD and depression are not character flaws or personal weaknesses. They are illnesses that are common and treatable. It takes courage to ask for help. Thank you for letting me share my story. – Command Sgt. Maj. Samuel Marvin Rhodes Sr. (Ret)
Dear Command Sgt. Maj. Rhodes: We have mentioned this Web site in our column before and are happy to do so again. We hope active military members, as well as veterans and their families, will look into this Web site and take the screening. It is completely confidential and can be enormously helpful. Thank you for letting us spread the word.
Dear Annie: Could you please settle a dispute between my daughter and me? When there is a child’s birthday party and it’s at a place like Chuck E. Cheese’s, what is the proper etiquette on opening the gifts? Should they be opened at the restaurant, or do the parents take them home and open them later when the guests will not be present? I say it is proper to open them at the party. What do you say? – Grandma
Dear Grandma: Many parents of very young children choose not to open gifts during the party because things can get out of hand, the kids become overexcited, the birthday child has a meltdown and Mom loses track of who gave what. Under those circumstances, it makes sense to open gifts later. The only caveat is that each guest must receive a personal thank-you note.
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