New mental health services for military families at Naval Hospital Jacksonville

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – New mental health services have been introduced for local military families at Naval Hospital Jacksonville.

Capt. Tracy Skipton has been a staff psychiatrist at the hospital for the last three years.


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He says the hospital’s new behavioral health in-patient unit will help people who may be trying to hurt themselves or others. 

Capt. Skipton says it’s common for someone in the military to experience a mental health issue at some point in their lives. 

“It’s high-risk, a lot of responsibility, and so you have some very young people put into these positions very quickly, and it can be very overwhelming at times,” said Cpt. Skipton. 

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 50% of Americans will be diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder at some point in their lives, with 1 in 5 experiencing mental illness in a given year. 

The in-patient unit was five years in the making. 

Before this type of care, sailors and their families at the hospital were forced to go off base. 

Health leaders say lack of sleep is one of the biggest issues when it comes to mental health, and in the new unit, patients can just flip a switch and block out any ambient light that might prevent them from sleeping. 

Each of the four rooms has beds designed to keep patients safe. 

“It’s bolted down to prevent patients form barricading themselves, other features include ligature resistant hardware to prevent patients from hurting themselves as well,” said Lt. Jon Guzman, an in-patient department head at Naval Hospital Jacksonville. 

Capt. Skipton says although he new unit hasn’t started seeing patients yet, he knows once it does it’ll be able to save lives. 

“What was so tough for them to deal with at that moment that was leading them to think to take their own life is not necessarily something they want to do now, and that there are other ways to cope with it and deal with it,” said Skipton. 

Naval Hospital Jacksonville officials say behavioral health in-patient care should be open to patients in early July. 

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