How the U.S. Naval Academy Is Making Mental Health a Top Priority

Life in the military is obviously stressful.

The nearly constant mental, physical, and emotional pressures of training for and operating in life-threatening situations is enough to tax the mental health of anyone. But thanks to a recent year-long initiative involving 4,500 Midshipmen in partnership with the U.S. Naval Academy (USNA) we are starting to understand the impact and severity of specific stressors that military academy students undergo.

In this Data Dive blog, we’ll explore how NeuroFlow is partnering with the United States Naval Academy and their Midshipmen Development Center (MDC) to help instill mental resilience in Midshipmen, and why emotional readiness is just as essential for today’s military as physical training.

The Unique Stress of Military Academies

Many college students in the U.S. struggle with mental health conditions, and rates of anxiety and depression are soaring among 18- to 24-year-olds as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. But those pressures are amplified in military academies where the demanding course load and intense physical training add a new level of stress to the typical college experience.

“Graduating from one of the Academies myself, I know how difficult it can be to report a symptom of deteriorating mental health and the challenges of being away from family and friends for long periods of time,” notes NeuroFlow Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder Chris Molaro, a West Point graduate. “What we’re able to do with the Naval Academy is develop an early-stage foundation of wellness, resiliency, and self-investment in personal health. We also want the USNA’s clinical staff to have the insights they need to support the overall health of the Midshipmen.”

Here’s how the U.S. Naval Academy is equipping Midshipmen with behavioral health resources to make mental resilience a fundamental part of military training.

Encouraging Results for Supporting Midshipmen

During the 2021-2022 academic year, the U.S. Naval Academy provided roughly 4,500 Midshipmen access to NeuroFlow as they trained to serve in the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps. This initiative was led by the Midshipmen Development Center (MDC), who used NeurFlow as a central part of their mission to “promote and enhance the adjustment, well-being, and development of Midshipmen through psychological and nutritional counseling services.”

This access to NeuroFlow included:

  • Providing regular and anonymous WHO-5 (World Health Organization 5 Well-Being Index) assessments to track well-being
  • Teaching Midshipmen resilience techniques such as meditation and guided breathing
  • Offering self-guided curriculums and videos informed by cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

USNA Military Mental Health

The results have been promising. 75% of Midshipmen with low initial well-being scores who took an additional assessment experienced clinical improvement in 4-8 months. Even more exciting, Midshipmen who completed a range of 58-111 total activities over the 12-month period increased their well-being score by 20.5 points, on average. 

“In a stressful environment like the Naval Academy, mental health at times takes a back seat to things like academic and physical performance. NeuroFlow is great for Mids because it’s a quick tool to track the different aspects of our mental health and provide resources that help us handle our own problems.” – Midshipman, U.S. Naval Academy

Moving Upstream to Prevent Mental Health Problems in the Military

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is probably the most well-known mental health concern among Veterans and active Service Members. However, it’s important to remember that just like other college-age adults, mental health risks for soldiers and especially students often begin as early as basic training and training in military academies.

It’s critical to meet this demand for mental health prevention and treatment by moving upstream. Instead of treating Veterans and Service Members when they return from battle, we need to start training Service Members mentally as well as physically before they’re deployed. 

That’s why improving access to mental health support, as well as greater identification and risk stratification can help assess and mitigate mental health risks as early as possible. And technology can help

Plans for Expansion

Thanks to the encouraging results and the increasing need for real-time mental health tools, the U.S. Naval Academy has expanded the resiliency resources it provides through NeuroFlow and is engaging more Midshipmen in the 2022-2023 academic year.

Commander Randy G. Reese, MSC, USN, former director of the Midshipman Development Center at USNA, recognizes the importance of improving access to mental health support: “As we prepare to welcome a new class to Annapolis, it’s our goal to create an environment that recognizes the impact mental health has on overall health. We’re always exploring new ways to support the overall wellness of students and proactively offer resources to those in need.”

Learn more about how NeuroFlow helps military and government organizations instill resiliency and combat readiness among Service Members.

This is the fourth installation of the Data Dive series examining behavioral health trends among NeuroFlow users. Other posts explore NeuroFlow engagement rates across different age groups and patient outcomes with CoCM. Check out the full series for a deeper dive into behavioral health insights.

Ellen Harvey is the Senior Content Marketing Manager at NeuroFlow. She has over nine years of experience writing about technology and innovation for business leaders. At NeuroFlow, she writes about prominent trends in behavioral health and illustrates how NeuroFlow's technology helps healthcare, payor, and government organizations improve the well-being of their constituents.

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