Archived Story

A helping hand (and ear) for servicemen, women and families

Published 11:40pm Friday, December 4, 2009

By JESSICA SIEFF
Niles Daily Star

The holidays can be an especially hard time for military servicemen and women and their families, separated by an ocean and war, as well as for those veterans who struggle with their own emotions around this time of year.

As so many settle in with their families, others find the holiday season a time of disconnect.

And it is that feeling precisely that has led the Samaritan Counseling Center (SCC) of Benton Harbor to announce free screenings for armed services members and their families Friday, Dec. 11.

The screenings are for “anybody that’s a family member or in the armed services” with the purpose to “help those who seem to be struggling right now,” said Kim Forsey, executive director of the SCC.

“I think a lot of it is families that are separated during the holidays,” she said, adding that children have an especially hard time with parents who have been deployed. “The kids just need to know that they have someone to talk to.”

For those left behind, the holidays can be difficult to get through. Parents worry about their children, husbands and wives worry about each other, children worry about moms and dads. For veterans long since on the battlefield, the holidays can spark painful memories or loneliness and the feelings can be overwhelming.

“It seems to always culminate right around the holidays,” Forsey said.

Through these free screenings, family members and armed service members will have the chance to talk to professionals about the feelings they’re carrying around and the circumstances of their situation and get a little direction if they need help coping.

“This is a very patriotic area,” Forsey added. “And there seems to be a really big need in this area.”

Those who take advantage of the free screenings being held at the SCC’s Benton Harbor location, 1850 Colfax Ave., will fill out a basic questionnaire that Forsey said will help licensed, professional counselors know what type of screening to give, aimed at various ailments such as depression, anxiety, alcoholism or post traumatic stress disorder.

“In some cases, they need to hear, to know it’s okay to feel the way you do right now,” Forsey said.

For some, the challenges they face may be the kind they shouldn’t face alone – and they receive recommendations for appropriate care.

For many servicemen and women and veterans, the care they need may only be further blocked by inadequate health insurance, Forsey said. It can make recognizing the need for such care or taking the steps to get it something more and more veterans and military families are neglecting to do.

The holiday season, instead of a source of stress – could turn out for some to be a source of hope.

Free screenings will be held at the SCC’s Benton Harbor location on Dec. 11 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The organization does operate five total locations in St. Joseph, Stevensville, South Haven and Niles as well.

The Niles location is at Wesley United Methodist Church, 302 Cedar St., and those with questions can call 683-7604.

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