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At Marine Corps Air Station Yuma’s Marine Corps Community Services’ Family Advocacy Program, the increase in staff in the coming months will include three new counselors to help with the service men and women seeking help. “At Counseling Support, we are here to help Marines and their families with a variety of problems or issues,” said Kevin Hoops, FAP case manager, counselor and a native of Oahu, Hawaii. Servicemen and women seeking professional help can sit with a counselor for individual sessions that last roughly 50 minutes to an hour.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Uriel Avendano

Help & Behavioral Health at MCAS Yuma

3 Apr 2013 | Lance Cpl. Uriel Avendano

The weight that comes with being a Marine isn’t limited to a fully loaded pack on a sustainment hump. Our load isn’t simply comprised of a flak, Kevlar, magazines, and a gas mask. The responsibilities that come with serving our country also demand's we carry the stress, burdens, and heartaches of that reality.

As we hit the 10 year anniversary mark of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Marine Corps must be prepared for what Marines and their families have, are and will endure in the coming years. At Marine Corps Air Station Yuma’s Marine Corps Community Services’ Family Advocacy Program, the increase in staff in the coming months will look to meet those personal needs.

“We do general counseling here, as well as counseling with families where there’s been domestic violence,” said Erin Yasher, MCCS FAP counselor, acting case manager and a native of De Soto, Texas. “So, sometimes it can be tough.”

General, individual, marital, family, and new parent support counseling programs are available to active duty service members, retirees and their dependants. Anger management, sexual assault prevention, and substance abuse programs are also at hand for those seeking help.

“Adjustment, as well. People may be having a hard time adjusting to the Marine Corps because they may be young, or they’re adjusting to being married, or adjusting to being here in Yuma,” said Yasher. “It’s across the spectrum.”

Pre and post deployment marriage counseling can also be very helpful for a relationship. Couples coping with what the hardships and stress of an upcoming deployment might mean for their marriage can prevent a total breakdown by sitting down and talking their issues through with a professional.

With the counseling support branch of the Family Advocacy Program, Marines adjusting to life in garrison after a long tour of duty overseas are afforded the opportunity to work through their readjustment in a safe and trusting environment.

“I go over our limitations of confidentiality right off the bat. I would encourage them to ask hypothetical questions so that they’ll know - They, ethically, have the right to know what’s private and what’s not before they ever disclose a thing,” said Yasher. “We don’t want anyone blindsided, we don’t want them to feel set up – That’s not our goal. We want them to feel safe to be as open and honest as they want to be.”

The need for help knows no bounds, and reaches both young and old, male and female. The grinding Marine Corps lifestyle can take its toll on Marines of every rank. From having to adapt to a much more disciplined world far from today’s typical American culture, to having the growing responsibilities of a seasoned Marines’ family breaking down, knowing help is at the ready is an important first step.

“Problems don’t go away if you don’t address them. The sooner you talk to someone, whether it’s a chaplain or us here, the better off you are,” said Gail Perry, MCCS FAP prevention and education specialist and a native of Fort Knox, Ky. “If you let it go and let it go, it tends to snowball and things add up until you have no choice but to come in because it starts affecting you at work.”

Pride, reputation, and a stubborn sense of being has often kept servicemen and women from being able to shake the idea that seeking professional help is a sign of weakness. The belief that psychological problems are a vulnerability better left unaddressed for fear of what others might think is an attitude that still purveys the Marine Corps culture. This sentiment has led to devastating life altering results for Marines and their loved ones.

“For some people, there may be a stigma that comes with counseling, but if you’re open to the process, it can absolutely be helpful,” added Yasher.

The programs available to the MCAS Yuma population are not limited to counseling sessions. Educational workshops with discussion groups and classes are also an option for those seeking to simply better their quality of life in a relaxed, nonintrusive setting.

“Married and Loving It” is a 5-week long group interactive class for couples looking to get the most out of their relationship.

“Toddler Crafts” is a once-a-week program for parents and kids, 2-5 years old, that helps bring them together through the creation of a one of a kind treasure.

The “Domestic Violence Education Class” is a 4-hour tutorial that focuses on the consequences, what leads to and the dynamics of abuse.

“Part of this is a greater focus on prevention. Let’s get services available to folks and make it more compatible with their lifestyles,” said Perry. “With an extension in staff, we can provide additional services and, hopefully, longer hours and be able to meet the needs of the families in a better way.”

Providing a trusting and accessible source of help is what the counseling branch of MCAS Yuma’s Family Advocacy Program is about. For additional questions or to set up an appointment, MCCS Marine & Family Services can be reached at building 598, (928) 269-2561 or at erin.yasher@usmc.mil.

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