‘Mental Health Day’ aims to help veterans and families

Judith Wolfe co-founder of the Santa Clarita Veteran Services Collaborative speaks to attendees about veteran's family impact issues at the Pathways to Empowerment event held at The Centre in Santa Clarita on Saturday. Dan Watson/The Signal

The Santa Clarita Valley Veteran Services Collaborative hosted its first Veteran & Family Mental Health Day, “Pathways to Empowerment,” on Saturday.

The mental health day, which was free to attend, began with a continental breakfast followed by keynote speaker Carl Castro, a retired colonel in the U.S. Army and director of USC’s Center for Innovation and Research on Veterans and Military Families, who discussed the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

“It was really good to have the main speaker, Castro,” said Lynette Jackson, a collaborative volunteer. “He was comparing the symptoms of post-traumatic stress to the moral injury (of war), which was interesting … But I’m so glad that (this event) happened.”

After lunch, participants were able to choose two 45-minute breakout sessions to attend, dealing with topics such as the impact PTSD has on a military family, what to expect when your veteran returns home, and mindfulness and stress-reducing strategies for everyone involved. Those in need of further assistance were also provided local resources and referrals.

The event focused on not only the veterans and their needs, but also support for their families, according to Judy Wolfe, the collaborative’s co-founder.

Vickie Blackwell works for a security company that works closely with veterans, which is why she said she decided to attend the event.

“I don’t have any military in my family, so I just wanted to learn a little bit more about PTSD, the stress they might be under, and how to help transition them back into civilian life,” Blackwell said. “I feel like I’m the mom there and all these young guys come in, so I just want to know how to see the signs and (figure out if) there might be something I can do to help, to help them get jobs and transition.”

Suicide Prevention Counselor, MSG Charlotte L. Jennings, (Ret.) Army & Marine speaks to attendees about her son’s PTSD issues during the Santa Clarita Veteran Services Collaborative, Pathways to Empowerment event held at The Centre in Santa Clarita on Saturday. Dan Watson/The Signal

Speakers included Wolfe, Charlotte Jennings, a retired master sergeant in the U.S. Army and Marines and certified suicide-prevention counselor who consults families of deployed soldiers, and Randy Del Cid, master of social work and readjustment counseling therapist at the Supelveda Veteran Center in Los Angeles.

“For me, I’m talking about PTSD, suicide prevention, drug and alcohol (addiction), and the average person is not going to go to a workshop unless they need help already,” Jennings said. “My job is preventing — to get you before you need the help … I really touch on alcohol because it’s legal, but it can get you just as much trouble or more.”

In addition, an instructor from Henry Mayo Newhall Fitness Center was available to discuss mindfulness and yoga, giving military families tools that may help in dealing with the stress and keeping them calm.

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