News : New Helpline Aims to Support Military Families
New Brunswick, NJ, USA, Oct 15, 2015 -- Many struggles and stresses accompany being in the military or having a loved one deployed, but a new helpline exists to make these situations easier to handle thanks to the National Call Center at Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care (UBHC).
Military Mom2Mom is a 24/7 confidential peer support helpline, said Dawn Dreyer, supervising mental health specialist. The line, (844) 645-6261, caters to people enduring stressors from either being in the military or having family members in the military.
"When we first wrote the grant for this through (the) Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey (HFNJ), we were ... gearing it to families that are somehow military involved that have special needs children because there are a huge percentile of those," Dreyer said. "But HFNJ saw a need for all families that have any sort of military involvement that don’t even have to have disabled children."
Dreyer said the stressors of military life — whether someone is involved with the military, has a family member deployed or has a child who is in the military — inspired them to expand beyond the scope of the original grant proposal.
Melissa Tippett, a Military Mom2Mom peer support counselor, said the military has its own language and norms just like any other culture, and the fact that she was in the military for eight years allows her to better connect with clients.
"It’s easier just to connect in that way," she said. "I understand all of that instead of having to stop them and ask them what is going on. I already speak the same language, so it helps (me) connect."
Peer support counselor Fatima Aguilar said she feels she has much to offer when she talks to clients because many (people) share the same issues and experiences, such as being a single mother or just trying to get through things.
"I have one client, she has so many things going on, but the only thing she really thanked me for was for giving her an adult conversation," she said.
Tippett said she thinks the range of clients they have speaks for the program on its own.
"We have military spouses, and then we have mothers who have grown children in the military that are calling us," she said. "It’s very broad, which is great for our clients, because they have a place, and there’s always somebody who can relate to them."
Military Mom2Mom received positive responses from its inception in April, Dreyer said. While they are meant to provide these services for the state of New Jersey, the organization receives calls from all over the U.S.
Tippett said she would have definitely utilized the program had it been around when she had kids in the military.
"There was really nobody for me to talk to, nobody to help guide me when my oldest son was in the hospital," she said. "There really wasn’t anybody to speak to or guide me or tell me how to use my insurance. You kind of just do it on your own."
Aguilar said she also would have liked to have someone to vent to or have a better understanding of what she was going through during her own struggles.
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"I think that during the time my son was in the hospital, I felt like I was really losing my mind," she said. "I was so uncertain with everything, I didn’t feel comfortable. I didn’t even turn to my family because I thought my family would feel sorry for me."
Keeping the will to move forward was difficult at times, she said.
"The beauty is that we have (Tippett) and (Aguilar) on the helpline who both have been deployed, who are both parents who have disabled children themselves so they’re able to respond to those stressors in addition to just the military stressors," Dreyer said.
She said the helpline feels very lucky to have Rutgers backing them up in their programs and services.
"We are part of the (UBHC), and so we have clinicians on staff at all times," she said. "So if we feel that anybody is in crisis, we do have the abilities and assets (to) act, and that’s the beauty of being part of the Rutgers system."
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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