• Some interviewees pointed to the need for supports for the supporters. Although the dedicated individuals that make up the fabric of Little Falls are unquestionably a strength, the emotional nature of the work takes a toll. One mental health professional said, “Everyone who works with the veterans burns out.” Supporters themselves have sought counseling to deal with the stress of working with service members and veterans.
• Though many community members were satisfied with Camp Ripley’s efforts to engage the community, a few raised questions about how effectively Camp Ripley communicated details about events, such as job fairs and welcome home activities for returning troops. Others said that, even though Camp Ripley publicized base events in the local newspaper, it was not always clear whether these events were for the public or military families only.
Suggestions from the Community
The community offered the following suggestions for possible improvements or next steps that may help address the needs associated with multiple deployments:
• The military should add a mental health screening beyond 90 days because mental health issues may surface later on.
• Providers of mental health supports should increase the number of mental health professionals with military experience. Interviewees said it is the shared experience that increases credibility and makes service members more willing to confide in a mental health professional: One OIF/OEF veteran who provides mental health services said, “We’ll send a professional out there. They’ll talk for 2 hours and will get almost nothing. I go out there for 10 minutes, they ask me where I served, I tell them. Boom, we have all the information we need.”
• Children with parents who are deployed should receive counseling. Rather than formal counseling, the visit could be an informal check-in. One participant suggested play therapy for toddlers, and another participant suggested a “chat” to help children process their feelings.
• There should be more education for the business community on mental health issues among service members. This type of outreach, such as a seminar or a forum, would help educate employers on what symptoms or issues to look for in service members they employed and how they could assist service members in reintegration efforts.
• More entrepreneurship supports should be provided in order to improve jobs in the region. As National Guard members reintegrate into the community, they may aspire to open their own businesses. Businees leaders said entrepreneurship supports would help the National Guard members to understand how to start and manage a small business.