On November 4-8, a mobile training team of instructors from the U.S. Air Force and Army National Guard facilitated a five-day mental health and resiliency training in Abuja. The 27 participants included highly skilled psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, social workers and psychiatric nurses from the Nigerian Army, Navy, Air Force, Civil Defense Corps, Federal Fire Service, Immigration, and Correctional Services.
Recognizing the toll that combat operations takes on soldiers and civilians, the workshop—called “21st Century Warrior: Military Combat, Operational and Disaster Mental Health”—focused on the tenants of military psychiatry with a focus on post-traumatic stress disorder. The goal was to work alongside Nigerian mental health providers to apply course material and develop plans for improving their disaster mental health response in Nigeria.
Instructors Major Eric Meyer and Major Dan Allen of the U.S. Air Force, and Major Mikel Matto of the California Army National Guard, led students in collaborative discussions on human stress response, prevention techniques, methods of intervention, family and unit support systems, fitness for ongoing military duty, and psychological first aid.
“Programs like this help military mental health services prepare to meet the challenges that come from human-made disasters like war and terrorism,” said Army Lieutenant Colonel Tyler Cate. “It is important for the U.S. Armed Forces to share its experiences with dealing with war-related mental health issues and managing the effects of trauma with the Nigerian Armed Forces and First Responders.”
Many of the participants expressed a desire for additional training in psychological first aid for more Nigerian service members. Others were interested in developing culturally appropriate tools and integrating them into their regular clinical interviews.
This multi-day training is part of a larger U.S. security cooperation effort with the Nigerian Armed Forces.