November is Warrior Care Month: mental health aids unseen injuries

by Senior Airman Kristin High, 51st Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Osan Air Base

OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- In 2008, the Secretary of Defense designated November as Warrior Care Month to educate service members, their families and communities about the programs and initiatives provided through the Warrior Care system.

According to the Warrior Care Web page, the Defense Department honors the courage of wounded, ill or injured service members, and highlights the programs that support their return to duty or transition to the civilian community.

The theme this year, "Show of Strength," is about recognizing the mental and physical resilience consistently demonstrated by our wounded, ill and injured service members.

Although the Warrior Care program aids people physical injuries, the program also supports mental and psychological injuries, such as post-traumatic stress disorder.

"With mental illness or injury, not being able to see the injury is the obvious and most difficult part," said Maj. Christie Simpson-McKenzie, 51st Medical Operations Squadron mental health clinical psychologist. "With physical, you would be able to see the person had some sort of limitation and understand that there are things they can't do.

"When there is a mental injury, people are often exposed to things that remind them of the trauma," she continued. "Because you usually can't see a mental injury, there is a lack of understanding."

Like any physical injury, if something goes untreated for an extended period of time, it becomes more difficult to fix later, she said.

The mental health clinic offers a myriad of services for active-duty members who may be suffering from mental injury.

Outreach through resiliency programs helps provide people with knowledge and expectation of mental health processes. Airmen can be referred to the behavioral health optimization program, or BHOP, which has mental health doctors who work with the family practice clinic, or Airmen can go to mental health as a self-referral.

"The clinic here also offers classes to help with various situations, such as relaxation or stress management," Simpson-McKenzie said. "Also, if Airmen have difficulty with alcohol-related incidents or stressers, we have the ADAPT program."

The Air Force Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment program includes substance abuse prevention, education and treatment.

"Overall, our goal is to ensure Airmen are taken care of and moving forward so they can return to their everyday life," said Simpson-McKenzie.

For more information on the Warrior Care program, visit For information with the Osan mental health clinic, contact them at DSN 784-2148 or commercial 0505-784-2148.

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