FORT HOOD, Texas – The year was 1995. First Sgt. Chad McDaniel, now the first sergeant of Company F, 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team “Black Jack,” 1st Cavalry Division, was then a specialist serving with the 2nd Armored Division at Fort Hood, Texas, and in a state of depression no one could see.
McDaniel, like so many others, has battled with behavioral health issues and has persevered through the challenges to receive the help he needed. He attributes his success to enhanced changes in the Army’s behavioral health system.
Having personal and relationship issues started to affect him and his work, but his peers and leadership weren’t asking questions or noticing the signs he was displaying, said McDaniel, a native of Paulding, Ohio.
“No one ever asked how I was doing,” McDaniel said. “I believe it was due to a lack of education on the signs and symptoms of behavioral health.”
It wasn’t until McDaniel’s attempted suicide that his fellow soldiers took notice, he said.
During McDaniel’s subsequent hospital stay, he realized how much mental pain he was in and wanted help.
“I received help after being released from the hospital from the chaplain and a mental health provider, but they are not like the services available today,” he added.
With today’s behavioral health system, there are many resources Soldiers are provided, such as leadership educated in understanding signs of behavioral issues, chaplains, military family life consultants, embedded behavior health clinics within each brigade, and first responders like Army medics, McDaniel said.
By practicing active listening, medics have come a long way in terms of helping those suffering from behavioral health issues, said 17-year medic, Sgt. 1st Class Carlos Lagunsad, medical platoon sergeant with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 8th Brigade Engineer Battalion, Black Jack.
“Years ago, when a Soldier would tell medics their behavioral issues, the medics wouldn’t ask questions or really listen,” Lagunsad said. “Instead the medics would send the Soldier off to seek help from his leadership.”
Lagunsad, a Manila, Philippines, native, said things have definitely changed. Medics will listen and know how to ask certain questions to provide the physician with information needed to better assess a Soldier’s behavioral health needs.
“While medics are not trained to be behavioral health providers, we support the Soldiers, we actively listen, and we are ready to help anyway we can,” he said.
McDaniel said he is hopeful by the changes in today’s fight for sound mental health in the Army. He said he encourages every leader and Soldier to take time to communicate with each other, take care of each other, and most importantly learn about identifying those with a behavioral health need.