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Navy recruiter breaks mental health stigma

BOSTON (March. 19, 2020) - Lt. Thomas Sarti, from Rockville, Md., is featured in this week's recruiter in the spotlight. Sarti is credited with beginning a new mental resiliency campaign called #seeONE2020 at Navy recruiting District New England. His expectations are to erase the stigma of seeking mental health help. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Joshua J. Wahl)

This report originally published at dvidshub.net (DVIDS) and is reprinted in accordance with DVIDS guidelines and copyright guidance.

BOSTON – If you feel like you need extra support during uncertain times, you can join a new resiliency campaign called #seeONE2020, created by Navy psychiatric nurse Lt. Thomas Sarti at Navy Recruiting District (NRD) New England.

Sarti, a Rockville, Md., native currently assigned as a division officer in the greater Boston area, completed nursing school in 2010 with a mental health degree. He worked as a civilian for one year before joining the Navy nurse corps, hoping to maximize his impact beyond one hospital.

“The Navy operates all around the world and does challenge you to grow,” said Sarti. “It is the best job to get you from who you are to where you want to be.”

Sarti’s served at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, and Rota, Spain hospitals before joining New England recruiting. Now, combining his medical experience into the NRD mission, he is using his knowledge to ensure recruiters are mission ready.

“What I have learned is that there are so many people around us that are not at 100% capacity, said Sarti. “They suffer in silence. A lot of them don’t feel comfortable coming forward.”

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Sarti said a military study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association showed out of 5500 service members reviewed, 25% showed signs of mental disorder with another 10% having an additional illness.

“We have to have a managed way, a proactive approach dealing with stress, and we all have to be on board, said Sarti. Over the years of treating patients and discussing with colleagues in the Navy, I felt the answer to acquiring help for people is we all do it together, and all of us take responsibility for our mental fitness.”

He also wants people to think about the basic physiology of stress and anxiety on our bodies.

“It impairs concentration, judgment, memory, weight gain, early death and disease,” said Sarti. “All of those things are totally catastrophic to what we are trying to accomplish. When we are in training, we need to be focused and energized, when we are prospecting, we need to be positive and clear, and all of the things are torpedoed by stress.”

Sarti created printed wristbands for the New England Sailors to wear a reminder to reach out to at least one time in 2020.

“The idea that mental health is only for those on the brink of a crisis is wrong,” said Sarti. “Mental health should be a part of each and every Sailor’s daily maintenance.”

From managing daily stress with meditation phone apps, counseling at a major military treatment facility or short-term solution focus counseling on Military One Source, he recommends finding what works for you.

“To be in peak performance as a Sailor and as a team to achieve mission readiness, there are all kinds of resources that the DOD wants us to huddle together and utilize,” said Sarti.

The idea for the campaign came to him while driving to work one day, but said it was feeling he personally experienced.

“There were times when I wanted to see mental health but didn’t feel comfortable,” said Sarti. “Nobody was, and I didn’t want to stick out. The longer I spent in the Navy, I realized how many people thought like I did. That this was a widespread perception. That we would be more comfortable if we did this together.”

Sarti’s #seeONE2020 builds upon the military culture of strong group support generated from being part of a team. Since presenting it to the command in December 2019, he says the command culture has improved.

“Many Sailors feel like the culture is very positive, and their needs are being meet,” said Sarti. “They feel like they are really getting the monkey off their back and able to get back to production with energy and with focus.”

He hopes this campaign will continue to raise awareness and influence Sailors to seek support without fear.

“Proactively building our resilience through our resources should be a habit no different than going to the dentist,” said Sarti. “The day we can meet in the hallway and say I got a mental health appointment like a dental appointment, and no eyebrows are raised, that is a day that stigma is dying.”

Navy Recruiting Command consists of a command headquarters, three Navy Recruiting Regions, 17 Navy Recruiting Districts and nine Navy Talent Acquisition Groups that serve more than 1,330 recruiting stations across the world. Their combined goal is to attract the highest quality candidates to assure the ongoing success of America’s Navy.

Dvidshub.net (DVIDS) reports are created independently of American Military News and are distributed by American Military News in accordance with DVIDS guidelines and copyright guidance. Use of DVIDS reports does not imply DVIDS endorsement of American Military News. American Military News is a privately owned media company and has no affiliation with the U.S. Department of Defense.