USA — Navy Program Increases Operational Stress Awareness

WASHINGTON, Dec. 2, 2010 — While high oper­a­tional tem­po and man­ning issues con­tin­ue to remain in the fore­front for deployed sailors, the Navy’s Oper­a­tional Stress Con­trol pro­gram is hav­ing suc­cess in help­ing sailors and their fam­i­lies deal with relat­ed stress­es, the program’s coor­di­na­tor said yes­ter­day.
In a “DOD Live” blog­gers round­table, Navy Capt. Lori Lar­away dis­cussed the pro­gram, its suc­cess in increas­ing aware­ness of oper­a­tional stress, and the need to build psy­cho­log­i­cal resilience.

“Feed­back from our 2010 behav­ioral health quick poll, [a] Naval Per­son­nel Com­mand poll, oth­er sur­veys and focus groups indi­cat­ed grow­ing aware­ness of the Navy’s stress con­tin­u­um mod­el and the impor­tance of lead­ers and indi­vid­u­als rec­og­niz­ing stress at work and home,” Lar­away said. “How­ev­er, while aware­ness and stress issues are improv­ing, this year’s quick poll respon­dents also indi­cat­ed that longer deploy­ments and man­ning issues con­tin­ue to con­tribute to increas­ing lev­els of their stress.”

Lar­away said the quick poll revealed a larg­er per­cent­age of sailors report­ing pos­i­tive ways they are cop­ing with stress in their day-to-day lives. The sur­vey indi­cat­ed they are talk­ing to fam­i­ly, friends, ship­mates, coun­selors at fleet and fam­i­ly sup­port cen­ters and chap­lains, and they’re using their chain of com­mand to con­struc­tive­ly solve prob­lems, she said.

While aware­ness of stress issues is improv­ing, Lar­away added, the Oper­a­tional Stress Con­trol pro­gram sup­ports an aggres­sive edu­ca­tion, train­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tion cam­paign that inte­grates poli­cies and ini­tia­tives under one over­ar­ch­ing umbrel­la.

“Train­ing has expand­ed this past year to include eight new e‑learning cours­es designed for Navy lead­ers,” Lar­away said. These Web-based offer­ings are part of the Navy’s effort to embed Oper­a­tional Stress Con­trol pro­gram con­cepts across all edu­ca­tion and train­ing pro­grams, she explained. This new cur­ricu­lum builds on cours­es already taught to 176,000 sailors, fam­i­ly mem­bers and health care providers to nav­i­gate stress for day-to-day oper­a­tions, she added.

While the pro­gram is about help­ing com­mands, sailors and fam­i­lies to become more resilient by increas­ing their abil­i­ty to pre­pare for, recov­er from and adjust to life in the face of stress, adver­si­ty, trau­ma or tragedy, Lar­away said, the expand­ed cur­ricu­lum also helps fam­i­lies cope with stress.

“A mis­sion-ready sailor incor­po­rates a mis­sion-ready fam­i­ly,” she said. “When things are going on in the home or in the fam­i­ly that are caus­ing stress, it has an impact on the sailor’s abil­i­ty to per­form the mis­sion.”

Work­ing with the fleet and fam­i­ly sup­port cen­ters, Lar­away added, Oper­a­tional Stress Con­trol pro­gram offi­cials devel­oped train­ing and a for­mal cur­ricu­lum tai­lored for fam­i­lies that would com­ple­ment and sup­port exist­ing pro­grams and have found oth­er ways to get the vital infor­ma­tion to fam­i­ly mem­bers.

“Our cur­ricu­lum has been trans­lat­ed into Span­ish and Amer­i­can sign lan­guage, rec­og­niz­ing that Eng­lish is not only the pri­ma­ry lan­guage to get infor­ma­tion out to fam­i­lies,” she said.

Pro­gram offi­cials also are work­ing with the Navy Med­i­cine Focus pro­gram to devel­op rela­tion­ships with fam­i­lies who deploy more fre­quent­ly. By doing so, Lar­away explained, Oper­a­tional Stress Con­trol train­ing com­po­nents can bet­ter define stress zones for sailors, Marines and their fam­i­ly mem­bers in the same, com­mon lan­guage, which she said is vital to help­ing them under­stand those stress points.

“What we are teach­ing or pre­sent­ing to sailors and Marines is the same lan­guage that fam­i­ly mem­bers use here at the fleet and fam­i­ly sup­port cen­ters,” she said. “That com­mon lan­guage is very impor­tant when look­ing to change our cul­ture.”

Oper­a­tional Stress Con­trol pro­gram offi­cials have devel­oped four col­or-cod­ed cat­e­gories to assist in clas­si­fy­ing and rec­og­niz­ing stress: green indi­cates a “ready” sta­tus, yel­low indi­cates a “react­ing” sta­tus, orange indi­cates an “injured” sta­tus, and red indi­cates an “ill” sta­tus.

“We rec­og­nize that for the most part, our sailors and fam­i­lies are in the green zone,” Lar­away said. “They are phys­i­cal­ly fit, they have had good train­ing, they have good com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills, [and] they know what to do and how to go about doing it.”

Lar­away added that if sailors and their fam­i­lies fac­ing dif­fi­cul­ty have resilience and life expe­ri­ence, as well as the train­ing and knowl­edge, they can move back into the green zone. Occa­sion­al­ly, she added, some­thing hap­pens to shift the stress in the fam­i­ly, and it is per­fect­ly nor­mal to move across the con­tin­u­um.

An impor­tant ingre­di­ent of the Oper­a­tional Stress Con­trol program’s suc­cess, Lar­away said, is increas­ing the accep­tance of seek­ing help for stress-relat­ed injuries and ill­ness­es. “Our work to change atti­tudes has begun with pro­mot­ing Navy leadership’s belief that ask­ing for assis­tance and guid­ance is a sign of strength, and not weak­ness,” she said.

She added that they are ded­i­cat­ed to using humor as a method to teach lead­ers and sailors to rec­og­nize their stress zones, and estab­lished a social media pres­ence with their blog and Face­book accounts.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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