Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Lifting the Silence

Lifting the Silence
December 11, 2009

When soldiers come home with invisible injuries — traumatic memories of things they have seen and done — professional therapy should help them heal. Far too many soldiers are unwilling to seek it and many others, as James Dao and Dan Frosch reported in The Times, are keeping too tight a lid on what they reveal in therapy.

Veterans and Post Traumatic Stress DisorderThat is not just because of the stubborn belief that real warriors can’t show doubt or weakness. There is a strong and legitimate fear that a soldier who confesses horrible things to a therapist faces a serious risk of career damage, disciplinary action or even prosecution.

The military has rules governing the privacy of soldiers in therapy, but they contain more exceptions than the federal law protecting civilians. Experts told The Times that confidentiality doesn’t exist. A former military lawyer noted that the rules allow confidences to be breached to ensure the success of “a military mission” — which could mean almost anything a unit does.

This is a serious problem, especially as more troops coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan struggle with post-traumatic stress. There is no easy answer.

The privilege that allows soldiers to consult chaplains in absolute confidence cannot be applied wholesale to their relationship with medical professionals. Commanders have a right to know whether a soldier is fit to serve. Therapeutic secrecy should not be a hideout for soldiers who pose a danger to themselves or others.

Still, rules should be more carefully drawn so that not every painful discussion opens a psychiatric file or medication list to the eyes of a commanding officer. Therapists could find creative ways to make treatment more effective for reticent patients. The military needs to keep chipping away at the stigma of therapy.

The Pentagon is trying harder to identify soldiers with emotional problems before and after deployment. More aggressive screening and evaluation — for everyone who deploys — could help reduce the historical phobia about psychiatric care. If counseling and other mental-health services became the rule, more soldiers would know that therapy was available and useful.

No soldier should struggle alone, without a plan for treatment, the right medication, a professional’s guidance. A soldier needs to know that emotional problems need to be dealt with before they do lasting damage.

Lifting the Silence


as a ex SSG 11B3M I agree totally with this article, I wish I had sought treatment in Feb or March 1975 for couseling to help with the issues I was having after having 7 fellow soldiers beat me unconcious and stuffed me into a snow bank at Fort Wainwright in early Feb 1975 after robbing me, the Army did general court martial 4 of the men, they charged them with attempted murder and robbery, the other 3 were usedas government witnesses in exchange they only got Field Grade Article 15s and Bad Conduct Discharge the 4 men court martialed got 15 years in leavenworth.

If I had sought help then or after some of the other incidents that occurred like Operation Paul Bunyan in August 1976, my best friend getting hit and killed by a driver in Schweinfurt Germany in May 1979, my friends son drowning at Fort Irwin or some of the numerous training accidents that I witnessed at Fort Irwin, NTC, watching a man get decapitated when he was caught between 2 of the bases Sherican tanks that were mocked up to look like Russian BMP's the fiberglass fenders caught him right under the chin, and when he was pushed into the back of the other tank it was like watching someone pop a zit. I lost my lunch and now have a memory that will never go away. There are also to many places at Fort Irwin that are named after people I knew, for those of you who are not aware, the military names places after people that normally are killed on duty.

Seeking mental health should be mandatory so the stigma will be removed, I hurt myself and my ex wives and my family by not admitting I had problems back then, and they paid the price for it, I can't change that but I hope my admission now will help keep some of these new soldiers or veterans from making the same mistake I and too many other veterans did, think by ignoring it, the mental problems would go away, I learned there isn't enough booze or drugs to make them go away either.

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