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Saturday, March 17, 2007

Online Combat Stress Counseling for Troops Coming in July

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

Here's a future scene from the Iraq battlefield, circa July 2007: A U.S. soldier battles against the enemy all day long. At night, after returning to base, he's troubled by what he's seen. But he knows better than to speak up.

Just outside the view of his fellow soldiers, he logs on to a virtual therapy Web site provided by the military called afterdeployment.org. He knows that if his comrades see him talking with one of the shrinks on base, they would lose trust in him, label him a head case. A medical file soon would contain records of the visit. If he ever wanted a promotion, he'd have to explain the weakness of his mind.

Or that's the thinking among the male-dominated, therapy-averse troops, according to researchers, therapists and military psychologists who met at the fifth annual Military Suicide Prevention Conference in Hollywood, Fla., last week. Attendees discussed how to stem military suicides -- in 2005 alone, the last year for which there are confirmed figures, 22 service members killed themselves in Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan.

While I applaud new ways for the military to reach out and provide mental health services to our troops, a resource like this does nothing to chip away at the biggest hurdle to their getting the help they need: the military culture of stigmatization and fear.

Click on 'Article Link' below tags for more...

Continuing:

"If you told me to try therapy when I was 22, I would have told you you were the crazy one," said Keith Armstrong, a family therapist at UC San Francisco who spoke at the conference. He is one of the authors of the recently published "Courage After Fire," a book that helps families and soldiers cope with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Armstrong said the military's Web site, which will include an on-screen therapist who can appear in video workshops, will not have the nuance and feel of face-to-face meetings between client and therapist. But, he added, "If a large portion of your population won't step foot into a therapist's office in the first place, maybe this is the precursor to therapy that's necessary."

The Web site has been under construction for two years as part of a Congressional mandate to address post-traumatic stress disorder and after studies showed that soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan were reluctant to visit field counselors for fear of being stigmatized by their peers, said Air Force Col. Dr. Robert Ireland, program director for mental health policy in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health at the U.S. Department of Defense.

Please read the whole piece; very informative.


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