Inaugural Seminar Supports Military Families

April 9, 2019

A day of immersion in military culture. A day of learning more about challenges that military families face surrounding mental health. A day of profound stories about loss, grief and hope. And a day of sharing knowledge and making connections to enhance support of military children.

This was the training backdrop for more than 175 professionals who attended the region’s inaugural Charlie Mike “Continue Mission” Training Seminar on April 4, 2019, in Chesapeake, Va. The Barry Robinson Center expanded its specialized support for the mental health of military children and families by partnering with Children’s Hospital of The Kings Daughters (CHKD) to host this seminar.

“This was an educational and informative event. We’ve heard a lot of good information and ideas about what we can do to help military families,” said Barry Robinson Center CEO Rob McCartney. “As you leave today, take what you’ve learned and move forward.”

CEO Rob McCartney (center) with Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Mark Graham and his wife Carol

Keynote speakers General Mark Graham (Ret.) and his wife Carol, shared their personal stories of losing two sons – one who died by suicide while studying to be an Army doctor and the other, an Army officer who was killed by an IED in Iraq. The Grahams are tireless champions of military and civilian efforts to promote mental health and suicide prevention awareness and to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health care.

“Each community has an invisible front when it comes to mental illness and substance use. We need to make it a sign of strength, not weakness, to come forward and get help,” Gen. Graham said. “Invisible wounds and scars haunt so many people. They need to be helped and not judged.”

“We leave here today with hope, just being around this amazing group of dedicated professionals,” he added. “Thanks for all you’re doing to help our American heroes and their families.”

Stephanie Osler, LCSW, director of CHKD’s mental health service line, talked about the traumas that military children experience, such as:

  • Transitions
  • Sustained combat
  • Lack of continuity in healthcare
  • Parental separation
  • Grief/loss
CHKD’s Stephanie Osler, LCSW, speaks about traumas that military children experience

Osler, a military spouse, said that treatment options available for children who experience traumatic events decrease likelihood of long-term problems.

“50% of military children receive care from civilians,” Osler said. “It’s important for civilian providers to understand military service and how it impacts children and families. Their experiences are unique.”

Other speakers included Joanne Steen, MS, NCC, an author, instructor and speaker, who talked about military loss and grief. Jason Gerber, M.D., Lt. Col., USAF, MC, a developmental pediatrician at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth and Joint Base Langley-Eustis, discussed developmental issues in children and shared resources for military families.

Sidra Montgomery, Ph.D., a sociologist and researcher at Insight Policy Research, shared demographic data about active duty military and information about military culture and values. Amanda Yoder, M.S.Ed, and Star Williams, M.S.Ed. military connected school counselors with Virginia Beach Public Schools, talked about their work supporting military children during transitions and deployments.

Attendees applaud speakers at the seminar

“The title Charlie Mike was inspired by Special Operations Forces who often use the term as code for Continue Mission. “Charlie Mike is all about making the mission happen,” said McCartney. “It’s about never giving up until the mission is complete. Helping military families is our mission.

“This seminar convened like-minded partners and brought together clinical expertise and practical tools, while fostering collaboration in the community, so we may better serve the military families that serve us all.”


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