Edmonds Military Wire: Warrior Checkup provides substance abuse help

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By  Michael Schindler

Over the years, my wife and I have been involved in several alcohol-related interventions involving family members. Each one brought with it a certain degree of anxiety, as we were never certain what the outcome would be — would our loved one fight it or go along? Would he/she resent us? Those questions and more typically made it to the front and center of our thoughts. Fortunately, after the first two, the next few became quite simple; our family members realized they ought to just “check themselves in” and so our intervention days were over (and all the interventions/treatments turned out positive).

However, not all experiences have positive outcomes – sometimes this issue can divide families. It tends to be one of those “issues” that, if not put in check, can — according to senior ranking officers — lead to more troubling outcomes.

The Army’s study, “Generating Health and Discipline in the Force,” released two Thursdays ago found, that “Many soldiers who are suffering from behavioral health issues or ‘invisible wounds’ remain undetected throughout the force, suffering in silence in Army formations at camps, posts, and stations and – within the Reserve component – across communities nationwide.”

Incidences of domestic violence among soldiers increased by one-third between 2006 and 2011, the study found. At the same time, alcohol abuse that was associated with domestic violence increased by 54 percent. As much as 43 percent of active-duty soldiers reported binge drinking “within the past month,” according to a recent study. I won’t even go into prescription-drug abuse among troops.

So what’s the answer? Warrior Checkup.org. Conducted by the School of Social Work at University of Washington, the Warrior Check-Up is a telephone-based brief intervention for active duty Army personnel who are experiencing an alcohol or other drug problem, are untreated and have not been reported. This is essentially the “check yourself in before someone else does” intervention – totally voluntary, confidential and allows one to explore options with a non-judgmental mental health practitioner.

This Department of Defense Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program is being conducted from October 2010-October 2013 and accepted participants are compensated for each time they complete a phone questionnaire, but not the counseling session – up to $175 by the end of the project.

A Certificate of Confidentiality protects all information obtained from participants, including the very fact they are a participant in the study. However, if a participant speaks about plans to harm themselves or someone else, project staff takes action to protect those involved, which may include breaking confidentiality. Soldiers can choose to participate anonymously.

The study has been approved by the Army’s Human Research Protection Office and the University of Washington’s Institutional Review Board. Garrison Commander Colonel Thomas Brittain and Madigan Army Medical Center Commander Jerome Penner have provided letters of support for the project (Joint Base Lewis-McChord).

If you or a loved one is struggling with the issue of alcohol or drug use, and happen to be active duty, check out the Warrior Checkup. If you want to talk with a live human being, call 1-888-685-DUTY (3889) or you can reach out to the UW team Project Director Tom Walton, MSW, at 206-543-7511 or email towalton@uw.edu, or the Principal Investigator Denise Walker, PhD  at 206-543-7511, email ddwalker@uw.edu.

Michael Schindler, Navy veteran, and president of Edmonds-based Operation Military Family, is a guest writer for several national publications, author of the book “Operation Military Family” and “The Military Wire” blog. He is also a popular keynote and workshop speaker who reaches thousands of service members and their families every year through workshops and seminars that include  “How to Battle-Ready Your Relationship” or “What Your Mother-in-Law Didn’t Tell You.”  He received the 2010 Outstanding Patriotic Service Award from the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs.

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