A wise man once said, “There is never a wrong time to begin moving in the right direction.” When it comes to the mental health care we provide to our returning combat vets, I believe we are reaching a point where that “time to change direction” will be lost forever.
WARNING: IF YOU HAVE THIN SKIN AND ARE PART OF THE MENTAL HEALTH SYSTEM TREATING OUR WARRIORS, I AM ABOUT TO STEP ON YOUR TOES!
If you followed my last posts, you may remember that I was defining the paradigm or treatment algorithm that our healthcare leaders have developed for veterans presenting with combat stress.
1. We put our warriors on unproven medications.
2. We subject them to counseling methods that are backward focused
3. We “sentence” our warriors to a system that is run mostly by non-veterans with no incentive to help them.
This solution is not working.
That’s not my opinion.
It’s a fact!
Blinded Me With Science
To support that statement, I turn to science. Here’s what the latest study from the U.S. Army Public Health Command has to say about the effectiveness of our mental health efforts.
A recent analysis of data from the Army Behavioral Health Integrated Data Environment shows an 80 percent increase in suicides among soldiers in the Army between 2004 and 2008. Also seen were increasing rates of depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions. The conclusion of this study summarized the findings this way. “The recent increase in suicides parallels an increase in the prevalence of mental disorders across the army. This finding suggests that increasing rates of clinically treated psychopathology are associated with increasing rates of suicides; these rates probably serve as sentinels for suicide risk in this population. Soldiers seeking treatment for mental disorders and substance abuse should be a focus for suicide prevention.”
Think about that for a minute.
This suggests that the warriors that do raise their hands to get treatment are at the greatest risk of killing themselves.
That’s not what I’ve been hearing in the news and information channels. Everybody wants to focus on the “stigma” associated with mental health disorders. If you are to read any of the major news releases, you will begin to think that our warriors avoid being diagnosed with a mental illness because it will make them seem weak.
Based on these findings, I’d say it is quite the contrary. I would even submit that our warriors are wiser than most people give them credit for. It is obvious that they are the closest to the trauma that causes these wounds. What is becoming apparent is they are the closest to the “help” they are receiving…and they are seeing the results of this so-called “help.”
I would contend that the “stigma” around mental health is a fear of what they will receive if they ask for assistance.
Tell ‘em What They’ve Won, Pat!
As I pointed out earlier, we have a flawed approach. We diagnose, prescribe, and probe. We remove all control of a self-reliant person. We abandon the methods by which we forged the warrior in the beginning, namely demonstration and skill training. Finally, we “sentence” our warrior families to a system that is run mostly by non-veterans with no incentive to help them. It is no surprise our men and women in uniform avoid help. Their greatest fear is not that their career will be jeopardized – their fear is they will be discharged. To be discharged, in the heart of a warrior, is to be stamped “Worthless!” On top of that, they’ll get the bonus plan of gratitude from our country, the Veterans Administration Health Care system, which promises the following:
- Waiting in long lines
- Having your integrity questioned at every turn
- Have your compensation delayed
- Be abandoned and ignored by your healthy combat buddies
- Fight a bureaucracy to receive compensation for their injuries
And if you ask for help before midnight, you’ll get your benefits cut!
A New Direction
Some of the greatest military mentors I ever had, used to say, “you’ve found a problem, great. How would you recommend fixing it?” Bottom line, “don’t stand there and complain….do something!” If you’ve been following me from the beginning (June 2009 was my first blog post) you would realize what I advocate is Subconscious Restructuring® life coaching and the developing an overall wellness plan that addresses nutrition, exercise, and mindful disciplines, like yoga, tai chi, and guided meditation. A great example of this type of proactive thinking is embodied in a Program called Exercise is MedicineTM, which is endorsed by the American College of Sports Medicine.
Both of these solutions are evidence-based, unlike the solutions our government provides. Through my coaching practice, working with over 50 combat veterans, I have seen the following results:
- 45% reduction in depression
- 50% reduction in anger
- 36% improvement in eating behavior
- 42% reduction in anxiety
- 40% reduction in negative self-talk
- 61% reduction in suicidal ideation
So much of my medical education reminds me that behavior modification is a first-tier therapy in the management of heart disease, musculoskeletal disorders, and even mood disorders. Why can’t we use a coaching platform to help our warriors develop forward-focused, client-centric plans of action first…before we fill them full of pills and pry into their past? Here is my solution:
If you know of a warrior that is hurting and wants help but is reluctant to enter into a system that is failing…ask them to contact me.
If you know of organizations that would like to support our veterans with a proven means to heal, have them contact me.
If you would like to learn how to use this coaching discipline to help warriors in your area, contact me.
…and if you disagree with me, then please contact me. Don't forget to bring your data to demonstrate your solution. I welcome your insight!