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NAVIGATING MENTAL HEALTH AND RESILIENCE

Challenging Stigma in the Military

Mental Health and Resilience

As readers explore my book, A Soldier Against All Odds, it's a common assumption that the mental health challenges and subsequent trauma I faced were a direct result of my experiences in wartime. NOT so! However, this is not the case. Contrary to popular belief, I consistently emphasize that my struggles did not originate on the battlefield, where such difficulties might be expected, but rather from a moral injury within the Army. Serving in a senior managerial role, my story can be succinctly summarized as confronting the "enemy within."


In 2009, I experienced my first episode of seeking counseling while on duty. It was prompted by an anxiety attack stemming from various events that fueled paranoia, eventually leading me to the hospital. Despite the prevailing ethos of resilience ingrained in military culture, I recognized the necessity of seeking help and decided to pursue counseling, deviating from the expectations associated with a stereotypical tough military persona.


The chapter in my book titled "Third Time a Charm" delves into the moral injury I endured—being repeatedly undermined and "ghost-lighted" by my own superiors and colleagues. The aftermath of these experiences highlighted a crucial lesson in mental health healing: "not every shoe will fit your size." I emphasize the plethora of methods available for support beyond traditional counseling, stressing the importance of exploring different approaches to discover what works best. These methods can range from physical activity and formal counseling to group therapy, one-on-one therapy, meditation, and various other options.


Acknowledging the confidentiality constraints of medical providers and spiritual assistance, I'm aware that my struggles may have become apparent to others, particularly given my senior managerial role in a relatively small community. Despite the gradual reduction of stigma surrounding mental health, especially within the military, challenges persist for those actively serving in duty. Keep in mind what may be trauma to you is not to others and vice versa.

Looking back, I believe the prevailing stigma associated with mental health has diminished over time, but its remnants still linger, particularly for individuals on military duty. My journey toward mental health and resilience stands as a testament to the importance of dismantling these barriers, promoting open conversations, and embracing diverse avenues of support. In fostering a culture where seeking help is seen not as a weakness but as a courageous step towards healing, we can contribute to breaking down the remaining walls of stigma in the military and beyond.


Wishing you strength,

Jason




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