Wednesday, November 11, 2015

A Special Focus on “Military/Veterans” and New Man Therapy Resources

By Sally Spencer-Thomas

The constant beat of the major media drum often paints a grim picture of Veterans and suicide. Sometimes we wonder if
 these messages become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Consistent headline include data such as
  • Approximately 22 Veterans die by suicide each day (about one every 65 minutes).
  • In 2012, suicide deaths outpaced combat deaths, with 349 active-duty suicide; on average about one per day.
  • The suicide rate among Veterans (30 per 100,00) is double the civilian rate.

Listening to this regular narrative a collective concern and urgency emerges on how best to support our Veterans
who are transitioning back to civilian jobs and communities. Many Veterans have a number of risk factors for
suicide contributing to the dire suicide statistics mentioned above including:
  • A strong identity in a fearless, stoic, risk-taking and macho culture
  • Exposure to trauma and possible traumatic brain injury
  • Common practices of self-medication through substance abuse
  • Strong stigmatizing view of mental illness

Thus, employers and others who would like to support Veterans are not
always clear on how to be a "military-friendly community." What is often
 not always expressed in these media reports about statistics and risks is
the incredible resilience and resourcefulness our Veterans have when
facing many daunting challenges and the many ways that they have
learned to cope.

The Carson J Spencer Foundation and our Man Therapy partners Cactus
 and Colorado's Office of Suicide Prevention set out to learn more about
these questions and conducted a six-month needs and strength assessment
 involving two in-person focus groups and two national focus groups with
representation from Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps and family

When asked how we could best reach them, what issues they'd like to see
addressed, and what resources they need, here is what they told us:

"I think that when you reach out to the Vets, do it with humor and compassion...Give them something to talk about in 
the humor, they will come back when no on is looking for the compassion." They often mentioned they preferred a 
straightforward approach that wasn't overly statistical, clinical or wordy.

Make seeking help easy. A few mentioned they liked an anonymous opportunity to check out their mental health from
 the privacy of their own home. Additionally, a concern exists among Veterans who assume some other service member
 would need a resource more, so they hesitate to seek help, in part, because they don't want to take away a resource from
 "someone who may really need it." Having universal access through the Internet gets around this issue.

New content requests: "We need to honor the warrior in transition. The loss of identity is a big deal along with 
camaraderie and cohesion. Who I was, who I am now, who I am going to be..." The top request for content was about
 how to manage the transition from military life to civilian life. The loss of identity and not knowing who
"has your back" is significant. Several were incredibly concerned about being judged for PTS (no "D"-- as the stress
 response they experience is a normal response to an abnormal situation). Requests for content also included:
  1. Post-traumatic stress and growth
  2. Traumatic brain injury
  3. Military sexual trauma
  4. Fatherhood and relationships, especially during deployment

Finally, they offered some suggestions on the best ways to reach Veterans are through trusted peers, family
 members and leaders with "vicarious credibility."

Because of these needs and suggestions, an innovative online tool called "Man Therapy" now offers male
Military/Veterans a new way to self-assess for mental health challenges and link to resources.
In addition to mental health support, many other things can be done to support Veterans
In conclusion, we owe it to our service members to provide them with resources and support and to listen carefully
to the challenges and barriers that prevent them from fully thriving. Learn how you can be a part of the solution instead
 of just focusing on the problem.


US Department of Veteran Affairs (2013, February 1). U.S. military veteran suicide rise, one dies every 65 minutes.
 Reuters, Retrieved from July 2,2015

Hargarten, J., Buurnson, F., Campo, B., and Cook, C. (2013, August 24) Veteran suicides: Twice as high as civilian
rates. Retrieved from July 2, 2015