Veterans Program Focuses on Vets Facing Stigmas

March 24, 2015


 

An event to help break down the barriers to veterans seeking help will be held Wednesday, April 8, by Penn Highlands Healthcare, the DuBois Vet Center and Community Connections of Clearfield/Jefferson Counties, Service Access & Management Inc.. The Veterans Health Summit will start at 5:30 p.m. in the Central Resource Center at Penn Highlands DuBois West. The summit is for veterans and their families. It starts with the presentation of colors, a dinner and a discussion on the stigma of mental health, or whole health as the military refers to it. Shown looking at some of thank you cards by second graders at DuBois Area Catholic Schools made for veterans who attend are Mark Russell, left, a readjustment counselor, and Zachariah Pearson, outreach coordinator and event emcee, both from the DuBois Vet Center. 


“I often wonder if my father’s alcoholism was fueled by his experiences in World War II,” a son writes. 

“My son came home from Vietnam a different person. He was quiet and withdrawn. He drank. He spent too much time alone, and no matter how I tried reaching out, it didn’t matter,” said a mother. “Eventually, he lost his job, his girlfriend and hope.”

We hear about war and the cost of freedom. But what is that cost? We often look at it in terms of tax dollars and cents, but ask the families of those who served, and you will find out it takes a lot more.

In the past, we may not have had a name for it nor given it any thought. When the war is over, the problems are gone, right? There is a stigma to talk about and  to receive mental health help.

Today, we should know better. To help, an event to help break down the barriers to veterans seeking help will be held Wednesday, April 8, in DuBois. Hosted by Penn Highlands Healthcare, the DuBois Vet Center and Community Connections of Clearfield/Jefferson Counties, Service Access & Management Inc., a Veterans Health Summit will start at 5:30 p.m. in the Central Resource Center at Penn Highlands DuBois West.

The summit is for veterans and their families. It starts with the presentation of colors, a dinner and a discussion on the stigma of mental health, or whole health as the military refers to it.

“Our goal in this program is to ensure that our veterans are getting the treatment that they are needing and that the stigma of mental health is not holding them back,” Zachariah Pearson of the VA Center, also an Army veteran, said. “It is also going to be a night where veterans can find out what resources are out there in their community for such treatment.” 

“Veterans from all eras as well as their family members should attend. Families have a major impact on the veterans’ treatment so we would like them there as well,” Pearson said.

Christopher Everett of Luthersburg, formerly of Sunbury, who served in the U.S. Army from 1997-2010 as a member of the Special Operations Unit 75th Ranger Regiment, will be guest speaker with the topic, “A Step in My Boots.” Everett completed four deployments to each Afghanistan and Iraq. He was awarded the Bronze Star, the Valor Device, the Army Commendation Medal and the Purple Heart. 

Everett was chosen because of his military background and is a powerful speaker, Pearson said. He will have a relatable presentation for the veterans in attendance.

He will be followed by John W. Lobb, PhD, a psychologist at Penn Highlands Healthcare. He will talk about “The Stigma of Mental Health” with an emphasis on military portrayals in the media and reality.

Local providers will be on hand with information on resources for vets, as well. Pearson will be moderator. 

The American Psychological Association's Monitor on Psychology said a major reason many service members do not seek out treatment is the stigma, or feeling of judgment, associated with receiving mental health care. 

Many service members are worried that disclosing psychological difficulties or seeking out mental health treatment will negatively affect their military careers. However, the consequences of not seeking out treatment can be dire. Untreated psychological difficulties may only get worse and could have a major impact on a soldier's ability to perform in combat or at home when they return from duty.

The Department of Defense has recognized that stigma is a major problem, and today, each branch of the military is doing what it can to combat the stigma associated with seeking treatment. 

For example, some people may fear that having a difficulty may impact security clearances. Now, the Department of Defense no longer requires people to report if they have sought out mental health care for combat-related reasons. Also, high ranking military personnel are sharing their experiences with PTSD and the treatment they received. 

Stress as a result of combat-related experiences is normal, Pearson said.

There is no need to suffer with PTSD. There are good treatments that can help. You don't need to let PTSD get in the way of your enjoyment of life, hurt your relationships, or cause problems at work or school. Learn from veterans who talk about living with PTSD and how treatment turned their lives around. 

What are other reasons veterans don’t find help? Sometimes vets believe it will get better on its own. They might not be able to know where to start to find a therapist, get transportation to him or her and how to pay for it. 

People can receive treatment to end symptoms of PTSD or just control them better. Treatment can help:

  • Make sense of the trauma;
  • Teach skills to better handle negative thoughts and feelings;
  • To reconnect with people you care about;
  • With setting goals for work or school.

PTSD has been around with every war. In the Civil War, St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington, D.C. , treated the physically and mentally wounded.

In World War I, doctors began to recognize an illness unique to returning soldiers, calling it shell shock.

Today is no different. In 2012, 349 members of the military committed suicide, and many suicides are not included in the government’s reporting because the person was no longer active military.

Help is at hand. At this event will also be a chance to meet with representatives of PH DuBois Behavioral Health Services, Community Care Behavioral Health Services,  Clearfield-Jefferson Counties Suicide Prevention Team and PAWS: Puppy’s Assisting Wounded Warriors. The Vet Center of Erie will have its Federal Emergency Management Agency triage vehicle/trailer for touring.

To attend this free event, veterans and their families may call to RSVP to Cindy Carnahan at PH DuBois at 375-3428 by March 27. Dress for this event is casual.