“The invisible wounds — post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury — are just as damaging as the visible ones. They impact the families as well as the soldiers,”
– Brig. Gen. (Dr.) John M. Cho, deputy chief of staff for operations with Army Medical Command
The second part of our series covering PTSD will focus on the important step of getting treatment and the myths and misperceptions that keep individuals from getting the care they need.
1. Getting help will hurt my career: Not seeking care worsens your health and increases the likelihood of a negative event (angry outbursts, driving under the influence, fights, being late to work, etc.). These outcomes could lead to loss in rank, personal relationships, and opportunities for leadership positions. Furthermore, it’s a fact that few applicants are denied a clearance based on listing mental health counseling on the security clearance form. Also, a new regulation allows Service members who receive treatment for deployment-related psychological health conditions and circumstances such as marital counseling due to deployment issues to answer “No” on question 21 of the Standard Form 86 (SF-86).
2. If I seek help, everyone will know: The majority of psychological health care remains confidential. If you are hesitant to seek care from your medical treatment facility, you can get information and/or treatment that is even more confidential by going through chaplains or using off-base or online resources.
3. Treatment is a waste of time, it doesn’t work: There are many effective treatments for PTSD supported by decades of research. Several forms of counseling have been shown to improve PTSD symptoms, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, cognitive processing therapy, prolonged exposure and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. Some types of medications have also been shown to help reduce the symptoms of PTSD. Additionally, many non-traditional forms of treatment such as adaptive sports have been shown to help individuals overcome symptoms of PTSD. Assistance even extends to mobile apps recently developed by the Department of Defense (DoD) National Center for Tele-health and Technology (T2) to help manage the symptoms of PTSD.
There is hope and help for dealing with PTSD. Recently Defense Secretary Hagel led the first ever Secretary of Defense Symposium on Traumatic Brain Injury at the White House with senior leadership from DoD and private corporations with the goal of increasing collaboration to address mental health issues facing Service members and veterans. These are only a few examples of the support that is available. Seeking help is a crucial step on your road back to recovery and one that you have the strength and courage to take.