Shifting the Stigma: Mental Health & the Military

first_img“Take a stand, stand by them…Emotional strength can be the most formidable opponent service members face in their efforts to keep America safe…” These are the words of encouragement decorating a Department of Defense (DoD) website. It is no surprise that focused attention is being placed on suicide prevention and awareness given the arrival of National Suicide Prevention week. Related articles housed on this site provide glimpses of Service members who have bravely shared their struggles with mental illness, including barriers in their journey towards getting help. Despite an increase in initiatives promoting military mental health, many Service members fear that getting treated for mental health issues will have adverse effects on their career.What Does the DoD say about Service members getting mental health treatment?In a statement surrounding military service members getting mental health treatment, current Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel relayed it’s a… “choice that embodies moral courage, honor and integrity.” (September 3, 2013)The Department of Defense clearly advocates for military personnel to engage in help-seeking behavior and sees this as a sign of strength. The DoD’s attempt to dispel stigmas attached to getting mental health services while in the military has been reflected in previous statements as well…“Seeking help is a sign of strength, not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of strength and courage. We’ve got to do all we can to remove the stigma that still too often surrounds mental health care issues.” (Former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, June 22, 2012)How has the DoD Supported Mental Health Treatment?The DoD has invested over $100 million in research on mental health and substance abuse which often co-occur with suicide. In November 2011, the DoD’s Office established the Defense Suicide Prevention Office (DSPO) which aims to prevent and reduce the impact of suicide on military personnel and their families.“DSPO strives to help foster a climate that encourages Service members to seek help for their behavioral health issues.”DSPO promotes utilization of a community-based approach in preventing suicide which is highlighted in their September 2013 summit. Information related to suicide, resources, policies and prevention links tailored to each branch of the military can be found on the DSPO website.Another organization connected to the DoD is the DHA Connected Health (formerly the National Center for Telehealth & Technology). Recently, T2 has provides mobile phone applications (apps) that promote psychological health and support traumatic brain injury recovery of service members.Stay tuned for this week’s Resource Discovery blog which explores a guide to help military family members understand and assist their loved ones struggling with mental health disorders. ReferencesCenters for Disease Control and Prevention (2012). 10 Leading Causes of Death by Age Group, United States—2010. http://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars/LeadingCauses.htmlWorld Health Organization. Suicide Prevention and Special Programs.Defense Suicide Prevention Office (DSPO). (2013). Crisis Support Guide for Military Families: A Guide to Help You Prevent Suicide.Kime, P. (Sept. 3, 2013). Hagel: Getting mental health help shows ‘courage, honor and integrity.’ Military Times. This post was written by Kacy Mixon, M.S., LMFT, Social Media Specialist.  She is a member of the MFLN Family Development (FD) team which aims to support the development of professionals working with military families. Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network FD concentration on our website, on Facebook, on Twitter, YouTube, and on LinkedIn. By Kacy Mixon, M.S., LMFTMixon, K. (2013). Kacy Mixon permits eXtension.org to use her personal photo. Suicide accounts for more deaths than wars and murders combined with more than 1 million deaths each yearcenter_img Men are 4 times more likely to die by suicide Attempted suicide rates are 20 times higher than completed suicides Military suicide rates have increased over the past decade last_img