You Are Not Alone! Help for Mental Health Issues such as PTSD and TBI - DoD Roundtable
You Are Not Alone!” “Every warrior is exposed to combat stress of some sort!” “Reaching out is a strength, not a weakness!” The DoD Bloggers Roundtable met with three great panel members to talk about the signs, symptoms and treatment of psychological health concerns, such as PTSD, and traumatic brain injury. Staff Sgt. Meg Krause, retired Commander René A Campos and Lt Col Christopher Robinson all brought a different prospective to the table and shared their story/information with me and the other members of the Roundtable.
Staff Sgt. Krause (US Army Reserve) suffered with PTSD after a tour in Iraq and during a challenging time of her life began showing class symptoms with withdrawal, heavy alcohol use and missing classes, drill, etc. Her story was heart breaking but it also showed what can happen when folks seek help for this affliction. Lt Col Robinson (US Air Force) just returned from Afghanistan where he served as the Combat Stress Detachment Commander for RC-East. Commander Campos (US Navy retired) is the director, Health Care Issues, Government Relations, Military Officers Association of America .
I asked the panel members what the biggest challenge that the families faced when their soldier, marine, sailor, airman or coastie returned from combat situations and had PTSD. All three agreed that the mental health stigma was the worst! Fearful of impacting their loved ones career they do not self identify problems or seek help often enough! Family members according to Krause do not know how to approach the member to tell them they need help. The warrior culture does not allow them to open up due to their training and we (the military community) must be willing to support them by talking about mental health/fitness just as we do physical fitness! Another challenge is peer support! Buddies need to recognize that their friend might need professional help and encourage them to get it! It is the right thing to do!
When I asked about preventive measures Robinson said that in Afghanistan his organization and other mental health organizations were attempting to become real persons by becoming involved in missions, conducting “walk abouts” and offering classes on relaxation such as breathing. I think getting out of the hospital/clinic and seeing the troops is critical! What a breakthrough for this profession!
When questioned about the post deployment mental questionnaire and why it seemed to under report the number of PTSD cases, Robinson said it was under review to make it more helpful. He said that family members, peers and leadership are critical to helping the members who may unintentionally or intentionally under report their symptoms. Another challenge is getting the word out on some great programs that are available to help PTSD sufferers and their families. He said that sometimes we forget to advertise the programs and left us with several great resources.
Two websites, Real Warriors and Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury have resources such as chat functions, call in hot lines and articles to help you! The Defense Center toll free line is 866 966 1020 and they want to help! Do not forget to use the chaplains on your post/base/station! They are more than religious leaders but also community health specialists! They know the resources available to you and are trained counselors as well! I have great respect for the chaplains that served with me and their caring and helpful attitudes! Your leaders are also being taught to listen and provide assistance! If your chain of command is helpful you can use them to reach out and find resources to treat your PTSD.
Are you in transition? Do you know someone in transition? The Department of Defense has “in transit coaches” that can be reached at 800 424 7877 and a website, inTransition that can be of further assistance. They have webinars and individual coaches to assist!
For Lt Col Robinson, Cmdr Campos and Staff Sgt Krause, thank you for taking the time to meet with us! The willingness of Staff Sgt Krause’ to talk about her PTSD symptoms and how she was able to find help was a great success story and a great example for others to get involved too. If you like to listen to this Roundtable or read a transcript please go to DoDLive. For further articles and information please go to the MilitaryAvenue Reading Room!
Photo Credit: Lt. Col. Christopher Robinson, senior executive, Psychological HealthDefense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury. Courtesy DoD photo.