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U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Carlos A. Ruiz, a Mexico native and 20th sergeant major of the Marine Corps, has a discussion with attendees during the Mental Health Symposium at The Clubs at Quantico on Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, June 27, 2024. The symposium aims to equip attendees with knowledge and skills to recognize, understand, and cope with what affects them from a mental health perspective. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. David Brandes)

Photo by Lance Cpl. David Brandes

SMMC attends Quantico Mental Health Symposium

1 Jul 2024 | Lance Cpl. David Brandes Marine Corps Base Quantico

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. – Marines, leaders, and community members gathered for a Mental Health Symposium at The Clubs of Quantico, June 27.

Hosted by the Marine Corps Association, the symposium highlighted the importance of mental health to attendees, specifically, the tools and practices to navigate the various issues that service members may experience throughout their time of service.

“The mental health symposium did a wonderful job of explaining and exploring the various facets of mental health that we would have to deal with in our professional lives,” said U.S. Navy Lt. Jameel Daniels, a Navy chaplain with Marine Corps Air Facilities, referencing service members generally.

He continued to explain how he thinks this topic could be explored more regularly between service members with intentionality.

The event highlighted the importance of skills to develop to help navigate issues that service member’s may experience throughout their time of service, such as recognizing the signs of mental health stress so leaders can appropriately intervene, support, and prevent potential long-term issues.

“We should take more notice into the mental health of everyone in the military,” said U.S. Marine Corps Pfc. Joel Ortega-Muniz, an inventory manager with the Marine Corps Embassy Group. “Maybe they might be going through something similar to what you have gone through, and maybe they can help you out too. That is why we should focus on mental health.”

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, and traumatic brain injuries are the three most common health concerns that a military member encounters while serving in the Armed Forces; however, this does not discredit the many other aspects of mental health concerns.

“Every single one of us in this room has an ‘it’; It may be a ‘them’; it may be a ‘those’; but trauma is real, and we never ‘get over it,’” said U.S. Marine Corps Jergen Campbell, the suicide prevention officer for Manpower and Reserve Affairs. “Sometimes, we don't want to get over ‘it’, but we learn to live with it and to help others through it.”

One of the goals of the symposium was to equip leaders with the skills and knowledge to recognize the signs of mental health issues. With leaders having the knowledge of the signs of mental health issues, they can help provide the appropriate level of support to an individual who may be struggling.

One skill that symposium participants had an opportunity to partake in was guided breathing techniques to help regulate the body’s stress response. Controlled breathing has been shown to lower heart rate, reduce blood pressure, and promote a sense of calm. This specific skill is beneficial in managing anxiety, enhancing focus, and improving an overall emotional well-being.

Ortega-Muniz discussed her struggles from her personal experience in bootcamp when she felt moments of doubt during training.

“I wish I had techniques like breathing in and out. That would help me be better prepared,” said Ortega-Muniz. “Everyone is built differently when it comes to these helpful techniques, but I think each one is designed for each person and how they work. It all depends on your method and how you live your life.”

Events like this symposium help dispel any negative connotations of seeking mental health assistance while normalizing seeking help. With these events, Marine leaders are able to foster a community of resilience with resources and strategies to help Marines manage stress and maintain their mental well-being.

Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Carlos A. Ruiz emphasized the importance of caring for Marines and ensuring their fidelity of their mentally fitness at every rank.

“Being mentally fit looks different to everyone,” said Ruiz. “I need to know that my experiences are not the measuring stick [of mental fitness] and I must understand the emotional intelligence of how I mentally process things and how I help others.”

For psychological health information and resources, visit www.health.mil/phrc; and for additional resources and community support, visit https://www.militaryonesource.mil.


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