205907 Combatting stigma surrounding mental health treatment in the military culture

Monday, November 9, 2009: 2:45 PM

Jill Herzog , Organization & Strategy, Strategic Communications, Booz Allen Hamilton, McLean, VA
Although current military conflicts have lower casualty rates than previous wars, many Service members are returning from deployment with invisible wounds in the form of mental health conditions and TBI. Of the 1.64 million Service members deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan as of October 2007, an estimated 31% have a psychological health condition or TBI.

Service members operate within a heightened culture of stigma associated with seeking and receiving mental health treatment. Often Service members fear seeking treatment will derail their military career and they will be perceived as weak by their peers and leaders.

In early 2009, the Defense Centers of Excellence launched “Real Warriors” – a multi-media public education campaign to combat the stigma of Service members seeking mental health treatment. With the tag line of "Real Warriors, Real Battles, Real Strength,” the campaign features real examples of Service members who sought treatment and are maintaining a successful military career. These stories demonstrate that effective treatments are available for PH and TBI and educate Service members and families about the resources available to help keep them emotionally strong.

Connecting with Service members on these issues poses challenges for outreach, as Service members are extremely reluctant to discuss mental health issues. The campaign utilizes both direct and anonymous communication to encourage dialogue. Participants will learn how the campaign weaves proven methods of outreach with the latest in Web 2.0 technologies to engage the military's diverse stakeholders.

Participants will meet Real Warrior's military leadership, the campaign manager and featured Service members.

Learning Objectives:
1) Demonstrate best practices for communicating positive aspects of seeking treatment for psychological health issues (PH) and traumatic brain injury (TBI) to active duty Service members, Reservists/Guards, veterans, their families and professionals who serve them. 2) Describe various successful, creative concepts that resonate with active duty Service members, Reservists/Guards, veterans and their families, thereby allowing them to feel comfortable to seek mental health treatment.

Keywords: Veterans' Health, Mental Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I directly oversee portions of the Real Warrior project planning and implementation support.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.