LETTER TO THE EDITOR
AIR FORCE TIMES
OCTOBER 5TH, 2012
I have written to Air Force Times on numerous occasions and feel like I am wasting my time, so this will likely be my last contact. My primary concerns have related to military and Veteran mental health issues and the stigmas associated with seeking and receiving treatment as well as what a PTSD diagnosis can do to a military career.
I am a retired lieutenant colonel, veteran of four combat operations, disabled veteran, and licensed professional counselor (since 1991), specializing in the treatment of anxiety (e.g. PTSD) and depression with active duty and Vets. I am also executive director of the non-profit Help4VetsPTSD, Inc., a relatively young organization dedicated to helping active duty and Veterans with PTSD. I also consult with a DoD contractor providing short-term, solution-focused counseling to active duty military, Guard and Reserve personnel, and their families.
I have experienced the stigma firsthand, both while on active duty and as a clinician, before and after retirement. I thought your publication was on the right track in helping to eliminate the stigmas, until I read "IS GETTING HELP A CAREER KILLER?" (Kristin Davis) in your October 8, 2012 issue.
In a little more than one page, you managed to hinder any progress we have made in recent years and highlighted WHY AIRMEN (AND OTHERS) NEED TO BE AFRAID, VERY AFRAID, OF SEEKING MENTAL HEALTH TREATMENT, OR WORSE, TALKING ABOUT IT! I find it hard to believe that anybody with any common sense reviewed or edited that piece before publication. If there was not a negative stigma before...THERE IS SURE TO BE ONE NOW! What were you people thinking?
I am appaled by the lack of judgement in publishing such a piece and believe the reasons for NOT PUBLISHING THE ARTICLE in question are too numerous and obvious to mention.
For those who do not have the opportunity to read it, Ms. Davis reported on an Air Force NCO (non-commisioned officer) who sought help and educated other airmen, telling them about his battle with alcohol (which he is currently winning by the way) and other mental health issues. His supervisor, an obvious Neanderthal and ignorant moron, killed this gentleman's career by making statements about his alcoholism ON HIS ENLISTED PERFORMANCE REPORT (EPR) and marking him down, both career ending behaviors. The NCO in question, a master sergeant (E-7), appealed his "referral" EPR to his superiors and the Inspector General, and was turned away!
Everyone in the Air Force, Army, Navy, and Marines have heard plenty of horror stories like this one and now they have one more...a page and a half's worth in Air Force Times!
We do not need to hear more horror stories while 19 military and Veterans each day commit suicide...that is correct...19 each day! As long as these stigmas are perpetuated in the media, young heroes, our military and veteran men and women, will continue to die. For the first time in recorded history, MORE PEOPLE ARE DYING OF SUICIDE IN THE MILITARY THAN ARE DYING IN COMBAT!
The space taken up by that garbage could have been better utilized by providing accurate information about the stigma(s), what the implications of the stigma(s) are (e.g. suicides), and proposals on what we can do about it. We need a positive discussion started in this country, educating the public, our elected officials, and military leaders, about the problems in military and veteran mental health treatment and figure out a way to fix them...SOON!
Air Force/Military Times has at least one "supposed" expert on staff, Bret Moore (Kevlar for the Mind), who should have, at least, reviewed the article before publication. Hopefully, he would have recommended squashing the story before it went to print, but based on some of his work, I am not confident that would have happened either.
On a similar note, Robert Dorr's (a long time writer for Air Force Times who gets about one-third of a page EVERY week - Why? I don't know) comments last week on the American-Indian gentleman being "wrong" in his perception, that some nose art depicting Native-Americans in the Air Force is offensive, is ludicrous and insensitive. A perception cannot be wrong and the young man has a right to stand up for his heritage and beliefs! What is wrong is printing garbage like that Mr. Dorr regularly spews onto the page, like black and white vomit, and the Davis article in question this week on career killing...WRONG Air Force Times...shame on you Ms. Ianotta! Becky Ianotta is Managing Editor, Air Force Times.