As medical practitioners, it’s easy to get into routines, customary practice guidelines and well-organized treatment regimes. I’m well aware, as with any situation or job, it can be very challenging and frightening to step outside of your comfort zone and push the boundaries. Yet, every single patient and situation is different. Each person is unique, has a different story, and is looking to you for help. Let’s face it, sometimes you run across that unicorn; the square peg that will not fit in that round hole. That is why I have been asked to write to you today. I’m here to share with you a story, my story about a life and a family that was saved by two mental health practitioners thinking outside of that box. Those practitioners brought a soldier out of what seemed like a hopeless situation that had baffled doctors across the country for over a decade.
Blog posts with the tag "Guest Perspective"
Understanding the influence of military culture on mental health and organizational aspects of the armed services is of particular interest to me given my decision to join the Air Force in 2015. Although, even if I were not a Service member, I would still consider the knowledge and skills gained during The Summer Institute to have utility, in working with Veteran populations and the families of those who served, as a civilian health care provider. I expected to learn about evidence-based treatments for a wide range of clinical presentations and military-specific stressors, what was less expected was the involvement of so many former and current military psychologists who added breadth and depth to the seminars and didactics.
It is Monday at 0730 in Bethesda, Maryland. A line of DoD employees stand outside the entrance to the Uniformed Services University (USU). Suddenly, the uniformity is interrupted. A cacophony of sounds and colors erupts from the Metro stop. Although many of my fellow Summer Institute participants fail to recognize our “gaggle” status, as we near the gate, a hush falls over our group. We make it through without incident and our group continues. I find myself reflecting back to words spoken at my basic combat training years before, “MOVE WITH A PURPOSE, PRIVATE.” Years later, I understand the value of that statement and the need to call cadence. We were truly a gaggle!
At least 60% of military Veterans who have served in Iraq and/or Afghanistan have enrolled in care in the Department of Veterans Affairs. However, many Veterans are reluctant to seek mental treatment. A recent study suggests that about one-third of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans who have major depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and over half of those who acknowledge alcohol misuse, do not choose to get mental health treatment in the year following screening (Elbogen et al., 2013).
When my husband decided to join the US Navy, he and I were still dating. I had recently graduated with my Master’s degree in social work and just started my first “real” job, working as a substance abuse counselor for incarcerated adolescents. I still remember the day he told me he was thinking of joining the military. He asked if I was okay with his decision. I said I supported him, but would have to decide if I wanted to follow him down this path.