Garrison Chaplains Provide Vital Mental Health, Counseling for Holidays

LAST UPDATED: January 27, 2022
Author: Shaylee Rawls Borcsani 

(MHS Headlines)
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany -- Chaplain (Maj.) Michael Dawson understands the unique challenge living a life as a Solider can bring during the holidays or any other time of year. For one, he is a soldier. For another, he lends an ear to the many other Soldiers who come to him at U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz in Germany. 

Chaplains are also a unique part of a Soldier’s mental health options and a vital player in the garrison’s first Line of Effort: People, and the Army's broader priority of 'People First.' 

“I am a family life chaplain,” Maj. Michael Dawson, garrison family life chaplain. “I understand the DSM, I don’t diagnose anyone, but I understand those aspects. I am also a pastor, so I integrate the two. To understand someone’s story whether they are religious or not is what we do, that is our calling.” 

The DSM is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders that defines and classifies mental disorders in order to improve diagnoses, treatment, and research. When getting into the holiday season, Dawson said that he sees people who sometimes suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder. 

According to the National Institute of Health, SAD is a type of depression that typically reoccurs during seasonal pattern changes and includes symptoms like oversleeping, social withdraw, feeling depressed and losing interest in activities. 

“We need to normalize SAD, there is a medical side to it like you need vitamin D, but there is also a psychological aspect to it,” said Dawson. “I don’t like it when I come to work and it is dark and leave when it is dark.” 

They also see people who are struggling with suicidal ideations. According to the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, suicide rates increased 33% between 1999 and 2019, with a small decline in 2019. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States.

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