Military Immersion Training Offered to Help Decrease Mental Health Stigma

Thursday, October 29, 2009 | 11:22am

NASHVILLE – In an effort to reduce the stigma of mental illness and substance abuse disorders, the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities will be hosting a second Operation Immersion training November 5 and 6, 2009 in Smyrna, Tenn. The department has partnered with the Tennessee National Guard and the Tennessee Veterans Task Force to present this one-and-a-half day training, which focuses on military culture and issues unique to Tennessee National Guard Service members who have served in combat and experienced one or multiple deployments and their families.

The training is designed to immerse attendees in military culture and the deployment experience in an effort to help remove the barriers and apprehension soldiers often face when seeking help for mental health or substance abuse disorders. Attendees are invited to spend a night in the barracks, go through a modified early morning Physical Training (PT) chores and inspection, tour a C-130 and Black Hawk Helicopter, and eat a Meal Ready to Eat (MRE).

"The stigma of seeking assistance for mental health issues or substance abuse continues to be a barrier to soldiers receiving the care they may need," said Brigadier General Max Haston, Tennessee's Assistant General, Army. "Soldiers worry about the impact on their career, and believe that professionals outside the military may not understand the experiences and stress faced by a soldier."

“This training offers a unique opportunity for behavioral health care providers to experience life from the military perspective,” said TDMHDD Commissioner Virginia Trotter Betts. “It is our hope that Operation Immersion will help to foster a better understanding of these issues and ultimately lead to better treatment and prevention of mental health and substance abuse disorders for those who serve our country.”    

Attendees will hear the personal stories of four Tennessee National Guardsmen as well as briefings from Tennessee National Guard Officers and expert professionals in the fields of suicide prevention, post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, P-FLASH – a front line mental health training program, serious physical injury, and substance abuse disorders and aspects regarding these issues that are unique to soldiers and their families.

The first Operation Immersion training session was held in June. Close to 100 mental health and substance abuse providers involved with the TDMHDD Access to Recovery grant attended the program.

To register for this event, or to see a complete event schedule, please visit Media interested in covering this event should contact Sarah Lingo at the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities at 615-532-6597 or

For more information on mental health and substance abuse disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder, please contact the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities’ Office of Communications at 615-532-4812 or visit


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