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Home > UNS > 130312-01



95th Civil Affairs Brigade (Airborne) Soldiers learn to reject stigma of disordered minds

FORT BRAGG, N.C.(USASOC News Service, March 12, 2013) – Standing before 200 Soldiers of the 95th Civil Affairs Brigade (Airborne) Feb. 22, at U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, Col. James C. Brown, commander, talked on an important subject to today’s Army – the stigma of seeking help for mental health problems.

Brown was one of three individuals who discussed the issue. Brigade Chaplain Maj. Douglas Hoover and social worker Maj. Terry Matz urged the Soldiers to recognize mental health problems in themselves, teammates, and their leaders, and not to hesitate talking about their problems to others in their unit who are trained to help them.

“After 10 years of war, we understand the impact on you….The Army’s changed, “ Brown said. “It has a whole range of programs, but the only way these programs will work is if you tell us you need help.”

The Friday morning “stigma training” was one of the first conducted by U.S. Army Special Operations Command, to introduce a new phase of U.S. Special Operations Command’s Preservation of the Force and Family (POTFF) program - the addition of licensed clinical social workers to help USASOC Soldiers work through mental health issues.

Beginning this month, two civilian social workers will be engaging informally with 95th Civil Affairs Brigade Soldiers at their company and battalion spaces. They will get to know the Soldiers at unit events and talk to them about the wide array of resources available through the Army’s network of health providers.  

 “Not everyone is comfortable with talking with a chaplain,” said U.S. Special Operations Command’s Command Sgt. Maj. Chris Faris, in a news release about POTFF. “They may be more comfortable talking with a social worker, or they may be more comfortable talking with a psychologist.”

The training session at Bank Hall started with a short USASOC video that included interviews with senior leaders like Faris, who told of his struggles in acknowledging that he had PTSD and how he received professional help to successfully continue his Army career.

Following the video, MAJ Joshua Stiltner, a psychological operations officer, took the stage to tell the audience his experiences with PTSD.

“It was like an untreated gunshot wound. I would be walking around, but it didn’t show,” he said. “I had a double standard, one for myself and one for everyone else. I can get them to seek help, but not me.”

“There was no one turning point,” Stiltner said. “But I was shocked when my wife said she was going to treatment. She thought she was at fault. My children didn’t want me around, because of my temper, so my PTSD was like a secondary exposure to my family.”

“Don’t set up your children for failure,” Stiltner urged his audience. “Two years ago, I was ready to get out.” 
Stiltner already had 16 years of Army service. After taking a hard look at himself, his family and their future, he decided he needed help.
“At first, I thought it was all BS,” he said. “I can fix this.  I can do it on my own. Prescription drugs? No, not for me. But as someone told me, ‘You can’t work on an engine while it’s still running.’”

Stiltner, now the headquarters and headquarters company commander for the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School said that he was there to dispel the myth that seeking help for mental health issues would be a stigma that ruins a person’s Army career.

“That’s not true,” Stiltner said, referring to the security clearance level required for his work in Military Information Support Operations. "My security clearance was just renewed."

“I see many Soldiers who tell me told me they don’t seek behavioral health care because they think they can handle it on their own,” said Matz. “The belief is that ‘I won’t get my security clearance if I go to behavioral health,’ but if you went back and looked at the situation, usually there was something else going on, significant financial issues or some sort of misconduct that was documented that could have been the result of having a behavioral health issue and not treating it.

“That’s what we’re trying to get across, is that preventative care can help you from getting to that point," he said. "We focus a lot, a lot, a lot  on suicide prevention and domestic violence intervention. But you look at what is happening before, you can see smaller symptoms developing to situations you don’t want.  So this is what we want to get to, while it’s building, and try to sort through what is going on.  And find resolution to it so it doesn’t end up blowing up.”