The Stigma Is Still There


Blogger and active Army Senior NCO CJ Grisham.

The following is a shared posting from active duty Army Senior NCO, CJ Grisham, a blogger of A Soldier’s Perspective, who can also be read and heard on You Served Military Blog and Podcast .  

It’s been over two years since General Chiarelli and the rest of the Army leadership released its plan to remove the stigma seeking mental health counseling for PTS and PTSD. One of the first things Secretary Gates did was remove the question from security clearance interviews about seeking mental health counseling. This went a long way to helping Soldiers come forward to talk about PTS issues, me especially. And, after two years of seeking counseling and two separate commands, I still maintain my clearance. But, we still have a long way to go in helping our troops, in my opinion.

While it’s easy to help troops that come forward and seek help, we still can’t seem to recognize those troops who are trying to bottle it up inside. Sure, we all get the briefings about what to look for, but I guess we simply aren’t looking.

Case in point, I know a Soldier currently whom I thought was an outstanding Soldier, a Specialist (E4). He loved his job, had pride in what he did, and was a good Soldier. He never got into trouble and appeared to be on track to making NCO.

Then, something happened.

That something was returning from combat and being told by his wife that she was seeing another man and couldn’t handle military life any longer. She demanded – and received – a divorce. This, of course, devastated the Soldier. He became reclusive and started being late to formation. Then he started missing formation completely. His standards dropped and he became testy with seniors. He was given corrective action in the form of extra training and non-judicial punishment (Article 15). He lost rank and money. Because of this, he started experimenting with drugs. He got caught and was punished again. He went AWOL and was put on suicide watch and punished again.

Yet, other than a friend recommending he seek treatment, no one in his leadership thought to stop and ask why such a stellar Soldier had become such a “dirtbag” and understand his situation. Granted, bad behavior can’t just be swept under the carpet, but if there is a reason behind the behavior shouldn’t we try to correct those issues CAUSING the behavior?

We leaders, NCOs and officers, need to take a step back every now and then and try to look at these situations objectively from the outside. When Soldiers feel like we don’t care and just compound the problem with needless punishments and misunderstandings about the true cause of events, we do a disservice to troops who are crying out for help. Our actions could very well push these Soldiers over the brink into a worse situation than that in which they started.

I’m not advocating babying troops and allowing them to get away with everything. There is a way to punish Soldiers for bad behavior while also providing the needed assistance to prevent it in the future. I asked the Soldier how many of his leaders have sat down with him as a concerned Soldier and leader and tried to find out about his personal life. The answer: none.

THAT is why the stigam is still there.

Here is an archive of CJ Grisham’s other articles.

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