Helping Military Service Members Veterans and Those Who Support Them in Transition

  Supplementary Q&A by Dr. Sean Convoy
Q: The caregiver responsibility is in the red “ILL” area but then caregivers are often young and not professionals in most cases. What supports are in place for them? What resources are available for caregivers such as training etc.?

This is a great question that challenges us to balance the needs of the mission with the realities of available resources to support said mission. From the outset, I would encourage the viewer to conceptualize the stress continuum and the associated continuum of responsibility abstractly (this isn’t so much a hand of off responsibility as much as it is a sharing of responsibility). If we walk from “green” to “red” (or left to right), responsibility progresses from self, to unit leadership, to support system, and to the mental healthcare system on the far right. This should suggest to the viewer that providers (young and older) are never “alone” in caring for ill and injured members. Actually, the military has a well-established legacy of mentorship (sometimes referred to as intrusive leadership). The rank system that is in place operationalizes mentorship within the military (e.g. seniors taking care of juniors).

Notwithstanding, I would be lying if I said that a 13+-year war has not challenged the process, people and military tradition of mentorship. We commonly conceptualize the term “generation” to run in 25-year increments. In the military, this is significantly decreased (arguably by ½). Given, we have a generation of military healthcare providers that have known nothing but war and have been functioning in a de facto state of crisis intervention for 13 years. The concerns reflected in this question are both noted and appreciated. The United States Navy has taken the lead with Caregiver Stress and is in the middle of deploying an enterprise wide initiative in support of the same. (link here).

Notwithstanding the great work done by the enterprise, the military acknowledges that it will likely take a village to help the population you identified. Uniformed healthcare providers are commonly uncomfortable with receiving care in the same place the deliver care. That is where our civilian support system really needs to step up to the plate. A civilian mental health provider that possesses a sound military culture competence is in a great position to assist this population.