May 2018 Convening Recap: Mental Health

Posted on: June 1, 2018  |  Posted in: Community Blog, Information of the Month

On May 25th, the San Diego Military Family Collaborative introduced the topic of the month on Mental Health. Over 60 military providers, agencies, and individuals gathered to learn valuable information on Mental Health and what it means to work in this area and the unique issues and trends that are seen in the community. Our guest presenters and panel represented PsychArmor Institute, The Soldiers Project, Headstrong, Southern Caregiver Resource Center, and Live Well San Diego. Thank you to our presenters and panel experts for sharing their knowledge and expertise! 

PsychArmor Institute has plenty of free courses relative to military culture, healthcare providers, employers, caregivers & families, and so much more. Visit their website to view their course library. See their lesson about S.A.V.E.!

After the panel Live Well San Diego presented a “Check Your Mood” Self-Assesment to not only self-assess your own mental health but to also link you to resources if needed, which can be seen below.

Download the Mental Health Live Well Self-Assesment Here

Check out our fact sheet below or download it!

Can’t see the chart? Go straight to the source here and see more information about mental health!

SDMFC Monthly Convenings are every 4th Friday of the month, 10:00am – 12:00pm @ Mission Valley Library. Join us on June 22nd for our next one! 

Keep connected to our convenings, newsletters, and other community events at

Please see below if you would like to watch the panel on Facebook LIVE or to read our panelist bios.

See here for the Facebook LIVE stream of our May 2018 Convening


Panelist Biographies

Heidi Squier Kraft, Ph.D. (PsychArmor) – Heidi Squier Kraft received her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the UC San Diego/SDSU Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology in 1996. She joined the Navy during her internship at Duke University Medical Center and went on to serve as both a flight and clinical psychologist.  In February 2004, she deployed to western Iraq for seven months with a Marine Corps surgical company, when her boy and girl twins were 15-months-old. Rule Number Two is a memoir of that experience. She currently serves as clinical director at PsychArmor Institute, a national non-profit that provides free online education for those who live with, care for, and work with military Veterans. She is also an adjunct professor at San Diego State University, where she teaches stress, trauma and the psychological experience of combat, as well as abnormal psychology.

Kirsten Alfaro White (PsychArmor) – Kirsten Alfaro White was born and raised in San Diego, California and received her Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from the University of San Diego. She received her Bachelors of Arts in Psychology from California State University San Marcos. In addition to her role at PsychArmor Institute as Clinical Manager, Kirsten is a Registered Associate Professional Clinical Counselor and has had the privilege of providing long term therapy to homeless Veterans with Substance Use Disorder and other comorbid disorders in San Diego for over a year. Prior to this, Kirsten worked for several years as a behavior technician for children with autism in the field of applied behavior analysis, working mostly with military families.

Michael McDowell (Soldiers Project) – Michael McDowell currently serves as the Executive Director for The Soldiers Project headquartered in North Hollywood, CA where the organization has honorably served thousands of veterans and family members throughout the country. He leads a national organization that offers free, confidential, and unlimited mental and behavioral health for Post 9/11 veterans and their loved ones. A retired Marine officer, McDowell served as a field artillery and civil affairs officer from January 2001 to August 2016 and held numerous platoon, battery, and battalion-level commands before his departure from active duty service.  He deployed six different times serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Southeast Asia as a member of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit in Okinawa, Japan.  McDowell holds graduate degrees from the University of Southern California (MBA, 2015) and Montana State University-Billings (M.Ed, 1994).  McDowell’s personal involvement in mental and behavioral health support has led to his desire to build virtual community-centered clinics with providers and peer support to provide short and long-term services to veterans and family members. His vision is to build long-term, mutually supportive community partnerships that bring lasting reductions in issues associated with post-traumatic stress and the symptoms of depression related to military service.

Steven Padilla (Headstrong) – Steven Padilla is retired US Army who served as a Combat Engineer with a deployment to Iraq looking for roadside bombs. Steven has dealt with PTSD/Anxiety due to survivors guilt and has gone through countless hours of Prolonged Exposure therapy to help him manage his PTSD. Since then Steven has advocated for veterans policies with IAVA and was invited to witness President Obama Sign the Clay Hunt SAV act in 2015 at the White House. He would later oversee the western region for IAVA serving over half of IAVA’s members. He has advocated both locally and nationals for veteran policies that affect veterans on a daily basis. Steven has spoken at the request of Congress members about PTSD and has recently spoken at SPAWAR about hidden disabilities. He has also done media, given advice on movies like Shia LaBeouf “Man Down” (post-production) and recently worked with the VA’s “Make the Connection” program to talk about his experience in the hope that others would get help. He is currently working with Headstrong as a representative in Southern California to aid in the growth of their program and is currently attending National University to obtain his B.S. in Organizational leadership.

Jocelyn Merino (Southern Caregiver Resource Center) – Jocelyn Merino is a Family Consultant and Caregiver Coach at Southern Caregiver Resource Center. Through her work with Operation Family Caregiver (OFC), Jocelyn provides support to family caregivers who are taking care of a veteran or a service member with PTSD, TBI, or a physical disability. She also provides counseling, consultation, education, and group work to family caregivers of those caring for someone with a progressive illness. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work from California State University, Sacramento.


Looking for more resources on mental health? See below:
Operation Family Caregiver Services
Addiction and the Adopted Child: A Look at the Links
Trusted Counsel: Does Your Tween Need Therapy?
The Emotional and Psychological Effects of Cancer
When Grief Becomes a Mental Health Issue
Becoming a Happy Empty Nester
Understanding Mental Health Issues in Seniors
Helping a Friend or Family Member with Depression or Bipolar Disorder


Post By: Adrian Edquid. Adrian is a BSW graduate and is serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA for the San Diego Military Family Collaborative.