Veterans Who’ve Gotten Help Have the Power to Destigmatize Mental Health Care

Veterans Who've Gotten Help Have the Power to Destigmatize Mental Health Care

Bret Baker (left) of Albuquerque NM, and Alexander Stelly (right) from Miami FL tackle the march flag in hand. The two are marching in support of the Wounded Warrior Project, March 17, 2019. (U.S. Army photo/Caleb Creech) Retired Army Lt. Col. Mike Richardson is vice president of Independence Services and Mental Health at Wounded Warrior Project. Medical research, scientific reports and testimonials from veterans and families of suicide victims have thoroughly documented the need for providing mental health services to veterans. Sadly, our nation is in the middle of a mental health epidemic with approximately 20 veterans dying by suicide every day . We know veterans coping with post-traumatic stress disorder ( PTSD ) and traumatic brain injuries ( TBI ) would benefit from effective care that is anchored in evidence-based treatments with alternative and complementary therapies, but first they must overcome the stigma of seeking mental health care. That stigma is not solely a veteran issue. It is prevalent in civilian society and amplified in military culture because of the value placed on mental toughness, physical strength and stoicism. It is widely known and accepted that many veterans have delayed seeking mental health care to avoid being labeled as weak, broken or mentally ill. These same warriors would not think twice about seeking treatment for a broken bone or cancer, and they should feel equally free from stigma when seeking help for an injured mind. Stigma is a complex issue. At Wounded Warrior Project , we focus on it at the societal level and at the internalized, individual level. Societal-level stigma is communicated largely through mass media and advertising. While we are beginning to see a change in how entertainment media represents active-duty service members, the same does not hold true for combat veterans, who are generally depicted […]

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