By Mary McPhail Gray
“Working with veterans is a passion of mine,” declares Jacquie Arcand, one of four Taos Behavioral Health clinicians who are uniquely skilled at treating veterans. “I am a military brat and have a lived experience with military culture and family life. My father was a WWI veteran whose PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) was never treated.”
Just as you would seek help for a physical injury, you can seek help for a soul-searing moral injury. The wounds are just as deep and debilitating. Most veterans have some level of PTSD—as a result of experiencing or witnessing a terrifying event/s. PTSD symptoms may start within a month of the event or may not appear for years. Often the individual has intrusive repetitive memories, avoidance behaviors, negative moods and thoughts and changes in physical and emotional reactions. The veteran often experiences difficulties in social and family life, occupational instability, marital problems and difficulty in parenting.
Veterans in rural areas are particularly vulnerable to unemployment and homelessness. It is estimated that 40% of the 6,000 veterans living in northern New Mexico need professional mental health service. Approximately 300 veterans in New Mexico are believed to be homeless.
TBH currently has 17 veterans on the client lists of Arcand and clinicians Linda Sanders, Beatrice Miera and Nakeesha Haelen.
Sanders came to TBH in the spring of 2018 after 25-year career working in mental health treatment settings. Ten of those years were as an administrator at the Dallas Veterans Affairs Medical Center where she supervised 170 social workers. She has intensive experience in suicide prevention, PTSD and sexual trauma treatment.
Haelen joined TBH in January of 2019 after nine years of working as a contracted Military and Family Life Counselor on bases in Europe, Alaska, Hawaii and the continental United States. She worked mainly with the Army, Air Force and Special Operations Command. Her husband is a Viet Nam vet who experienced the lack of help when he returned from his tour of duty.
Arcand has 16 years of behavioral health experience and specializes in trauma and family issues. She is a founder of an equine-based therapy program that serves veterans, first responders and their families.
Beatrice Miera is the TBH head clinician at UNM-Taos, initiating services to veterans, staff and students. A US veteran from a military family, Miera is also licensed in vocational rehabilitation counseling. Together these four clinicians offer deep compassion and skilled interventions to veterans in our community.
As part of our TBH service to veterans, we collaborate with other agencies who serve this population. Haelen and Board member C attend the community collaborative for veteran’s services and share information to assist in treatment. Haelen is the lead clinician at the National Veterans Wellness and Healing Center which offers week-long retreats in Angel Fire and Red River from May through October.
The next upcoming retreat is for female Military Sexual Trauma victims and will take place June 2-9 in Red River. At no cost to the participants, staff offer effective alternative programs for decreasing symptoms and healing. Massage, individual counseling, equine experience and other outdoor activities that take advantage of the beautiful mountain resources, Native American ceremonies and group education are in the mix. For information and to download an application visit www.veteranswellnessandhealing.org or call 575-377-5236.
We have asked veterans to put themselves in harm’s way to service our country’s interests. The impact of what they experienced can often never be understood except by fellow veterans or clinicians with deep experience in their treatment. At TBH we know that the accumulated terror of what happened can be expressed in ways that put them and all of us in danger. We need your partnership to support our services and communicate the availability of help. They can learn, grow and empower themselves to feel more in charge of their lives—with skilled support from our clinicians.
TBH has the largest staff of licensed and credentialed behavioral health clinicians in northern New Mexico. We can be reached at 105 Bertha in Taos, at www.taosbehaioralhealth.org or 575-758-4297
Mary McPhail Gray is the board chair of TBH and can be reached at 575-779-3126 or firstname.lastname@example.org