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Remove the Stigma

Psychological healthcare is imperative for veterans and servicemembers.

By Lisa Cypers Kamen

            People who psychologically struggle often feel alone and like an outcast. Admitting something is wrong and that they need help is scary because of how others may respond to their “confession.” Feelings of shame, particularly for veterans and servicemembers who feel they must appear “strong,” may dissuade them from seeking out a professional in psychological healthcare. This is devastating because these professionals have the skill set to help them reconcile and better understand the challenges they face, and often desperately try to ignore.

It’s impossible for someone who knows they are not feeling right emotionally or mentally to ignore it for a long period of time. Eventually, something has to give. Instead of trying to find answers after something dire happens to a person or maybe even innocent parties, we need to change the perception of how psychological healthcare is viewed. By refusing to ignore it we are bringing awareness to an issue that is a serious problem. Furthermore, a conversation is created that is inclusive and encouraging, instead of stigmatizing.

          Here are five steps we can take starting today that will help create a discussion that opens up doors for people who need help to receive it:

  • Better define the role of the psychological healthcare provider

Although counseling sessions are private, people tend to have an opinion of what happens during one. Sadly, unless you’re being helped, that opinion is often unfavorable. Psychologists and therapists do more than prescribe drugs and allow their patients to ramble on repeatedly. They allow them to release their emotions and then find healthy ways to resolve underlying issues and problems that are creating their challenges.

  • Become aware that some solutions are easier than you may believe

Certain psychological disorders are the result of a chemical imbalance. Take bipolar disorder, for example. This stems from a chemical imbalance and through a medication to restore the balance, someone who has suffered with uncertainty about their “ups and downs” in life for many years can quickly find that peace of mind that has always eluded them.

  • Family education

By educating the friends and family of someone who needs psychological care about the process we can take a significant step to reduce the stigma for the patient. This will offer them comfort and confidence that the people closest to them understand them better, therefore can be more supportive.

  • Understand the root causes that lead to psychological challenges

Conditions such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are mostly associated with people who’ve served in the military during war times. However, any traumatic event that happens to a person at any age can create a stress-related disorder. At times, the person can be young enough that they don’t even recall the event that caused it, specifically. To add to understanding these types of situations, people should remember that just because one person can brush something off doesn’t mean that it’s a sign of weakness that another person cannot do the same.

  • Improve insurance coverage for psychological healthcare

Most insurance companies are very specific as to what they cover in the way of psychological healthcare. By having coverage options for mental health you are giving people a chance to heal, perhaps without ever having to take a drug at all. Admittedly, therapy can be costly and if someone doesn’t have insurance they are deterred from investing in it, even when it would make a world of positive difference in their lives. Through grants, funding, and de-stigmatizing this type of care more people who really need it will seek it out.

            Nobody wants to see anyone struggle unnecessarily in their life. Those who are living with psychological disorders that go untreated struggle so much—possibly even every minute of their waking day. There is much that we can do on a private level to help shed light on the benefits of psychological care. Additionally, medical professionals, insurance companies, and qualified mental health programs can evolve the conversation from their end through outreach. It’s a joint initiative, and one that is worth everyone’s time and attention.

Lisa Cypers Kamen, MA is an internationally recognized applied positive psychology coach, author, speaker, documentary filmmaker and host of the popular radio show Harvesting Happiness. Her new book Are We Happy Yet: Eight Keys to Unlocking a Joyful Life released in March, 2017. For more information, visit www.arewehappyyet.com.

Additional Info

  • Issue: 12
  • Volume: 4
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