EFM shouldn’t have to see three RMOs, do a PPT presentation and wait 352 days for help

Below is an excerpt (used with permission) from a blog post by Amy, a diplomatic spouse posted in New Zealand who was traumatized by the Christchurch earthquake last year. Her full post, It takes a lot to piss me off is here:

Last week we had yet a new RMO come and I was ready this time. I prepared a power point presentation for her to let her know how I really felt. The system is broken sister and here’s why….I thought it was a very good presentation and I left with a new prescription for antihistamines! No wonder there are so many alcoholics in this business (or so I’m told, I haven’t met any yet). Luckily I am not so fearful and even enjoy NZ though I’d never live here permanently and am looking forward to our new post in India. But I am thinking that to be a part of this business you have to look after yourself. Nobody is going to hold your hand and make sure you get the help you need. I didn’t even know I was eligible for medivac back to the States just after the quake until 8 months after. A nice quake break would have been helpful. Someone really should have told me that was an option.

So yeah, I took a power point presentation to my shrink after receiving help 352 days after my crisis. I’m such a drama queen.

What kind of Whiskey-Tango-Foxtrot help is this?  An EFM (eligible family member) who needs help should not have to see three RMOs, create a PowerPoint presentation and wait 352 days to get help!

The State Department has shrinks, politely known as Regional Medical Officers/Psychiatrists or RMO/Ps.  The RMO/Ps are presently serving in Accra, Amman, Bangkok, Beijing, Cairo, Dakar, Frankfurt, Lima, London, Manama, Mexico City, Moscow, Nairobi, New Delhi, Pretoria, Tokyo, Vienna, and the District of Columbia among other locations. RMO/Ps also serve on temporary duty in high threat locations (e.g., Baghdad, Kabul, etc) and in post-disaster environments (e.g., post earthquake Haiti, etc).

I don’t know which RMO/P covers New Zealand.  In my old life, I went through natural disasters here and there, a couple or so coup d’états and two broken hearts, not all at the same time, silly.  Saw no shrink, but now see how I turned out?

Below are two of an RMO/P’s responsibilities:

Embassy or State Department Specific Responsibilities: Makes regular visits to regional posts, as frequently as necessary to determine ongoing mental health needs and provides needed services.

Clinical Responsibilities: Provides ambulatory and emergency psychiatric care for employees and eligible family members including children, assesses post morale responds to emergencies 24-hour/7 days a week, performs telephone consultations, assures patient confidentiality, responds to crises at the home post or regional posts, renders clinical consultations on workplace and family violence events (including child and spousal abuse cases), provides educational and treatment services as feasible for alcohol and drug abuse prevention at post, renders psychiatric consultations for Regional Medical Officer, helps employees in problems of adjustment to life style, creates and provides educational and therapeutic presentations to officers and families at post, and assists with establishing life style programs.

State also has a much touted, Deployment Stress Management Program (DSMP) located in Mental Health Services within the Office of Medical Services. This office apparently provides information, education, referrals, initial assessment and brief treatment for problems related to the stress of deployment to high threat areas, unaccompanied tours, overseas crises and other stressful situations encountered by Foreign Service Officers, family members and State Department employees overseas.

Deployment Stress Management Program
Office of Medical Services
1800 North Kent Street
Arlington (Rosslyn), VA 22209
Tel: 703-875-4828
Fax: 703-875-4952
Email: MEDDSMP@state.gov

Oh, and a Happy Valentines to you, too, especially the folks at MED.  I’m sure she appreciates the antihistamines, but she needs more than damn itchy pills for emergencies.

The State Department’s Office of Medical Services  is headed by Medical Director Gary D. Penner, M.D.  If there is a part of his office not doing its mission to “safeguard and promote the health and well-being of America’s diplomatic community,” he ought to know about it.  Because the buck stops on his desk.  Um, unless it stops elsewhere upstairs ….

Domani Spero

4 responses

  1. Guess she should have put her ppt up on facebook or twitter. (Cause I’ve heard that twitter and facebook empowers people and stuff…)

  2. There has always been that interesting conflict between assurances that we’d be taken care of versus behind-the-hand sneers about how we need to pull up our socks and soldier on. The benefits exist in theory, but woe unto you if you ask for them – you suddenly aren’t playing for the team any more. And that ‘not playing’ whisper will follow you forever. Seen it happen so often, but woe unto anyone who says that aloud, too.