New Army center designed to end stigma of seeking help

Kansas City StarJune 19, 2011 

Military fitness is gradually being redefined at military installations nationwide.

Gone is the idea that a strong soldier is just physically sturdy. A strong mind and spirit must also be part of the equation for success.

“Individual strength isn’t just about push-ups,” said Lt. Gen. Robert L. Caslen, Fort Leavenworth’s commander.

The idea of what overall fitness truly means came to Fort Leavenworth this month when leaders there officially opened the Resiliency Center.

The center is a one-stop facility designed to strengthen Army soldiers, families and civilian employees through a mind, body and soul approach. The center has a clearinghouse of programs and agencies all focused on emotional, spiritual, physical, social and family support. Soldiers can register children for school or soccer in the same building where they can find spiritual, marriage or financial counseling.

Fort Leavenworth’s leaders make it clear that the center is critical in keeping the community’s spirit healthy, especially during a time of war.

“These past 10 years have placed unbelievable stress on our force,” Caslen said. “This is exactly the type of support system that we need in these trying times. And if you ask me, it’s long overdue.”

Inside the center are chaplains, specialty counseling services, recreational offerings for children and adults, and more. A large room has been set aside for families of deceased military personnel. There they can gather for advice and support and maintain a connection to the military world.

Employees within the center are trained to delicately ask questions to determine when families need an extra hand. If someone registering a child for summer camp mentions that his or her car broke down, a Resiliency Center employee won’t simply offer a sympathetic turn of phrase.

The employee might instead walk the person down the hall to Army emergency relief, said Glenn Hewitt, director of Fort Leavenworth Family & Morale, Welfare & Recreation.

Many of the programs in the building had once been sprinkled throughout the sprawling military installation. But the military has strategically placed the programs within a larger center in part to reduce the stigma associated with seeking help.

“That’s why there is a diverse amount of programs, so that you could have a family walking into this building and you don’t know if they’re going to register” for child care, financial counseling or mental health help, Hewitt said.

The approach comes as the military continues to struggle with issues such as suicide, traumatic stress, divorce and mental illness.

Last year, the Army published a suicide prevention study. Military officials realized that by filling seemingly small family voids, they could have a drastic effect on the overall force.

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