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Welcome to CombatCounselor Chronicle, an E-zine dedicated to giving you the most current, pertinent information on cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and mindfulness-based CBT available.

Chris Sorrentino, a.k.a CombatCounselor, is a leader and expert in cognitive behavioral therapy. He combines 30 years of experience in psychology with the discipline from having served as a U.S. Air Force officer for 20 years, 4 of those in combat zones, retiring as a lieutenant colonel in 2005.

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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for Veterans Act ... Great Idea, Poor Execution

By C.T. Sorrentino, LtCol, USAF (Ret)
      LPC, NCC

In regard to the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans ACT, the legislation states:

Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act or the Clay Hunt SAV Act - (Sec. 2) Requires the Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) to: (1) arrange for an independent third party evaluation, at least annually, of the VA's mental health care and suicide prevention programs; and (2) submit a report to Congress, by December 1 of each year, containing the most recent evaluations not yet submitted to Congress and any recommendations the Secretary considers appropriate. 
(Sec. 3) Directs the Secretary to survey the VA's existing Internet websites and information resources to publish an Internet website that serves as a centralized source to provide veterans with information, updated at least once every 90 days, regarding all of the VA's mental health care services.(Sec. 4) Requires the Secretary to carry out a three-year pilot program to repay the education loans relating to psychiatric medicine that are incurred by individuals who:

are eligible to practice psychiatric medicine in the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) or are enrolled in the final year of a residency program leading to a specialty qualification in psychiatric medicine; 
demonstrate a commitment to a long-term career as a psychiatrist in the VHA; and 
agree to a period of two or more years of obligated service with the VHA in the field of psychiatric medicine, as determined by the Secretary.
Limits the loan repayment to no more than $30,000 for each year an individual performs such obligated service.
The Clay Hunt SAV Act is a great start and long overdue, but shortsighted considering that over 8,000 Veterans commit suicide each year.  Psychiatrists, like all medical doctors (M.D.), are mostly concerned with prescribing pills, which is not the answer for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or many other psychological problems (anxiety and depression, the most common psychiatric conditions) for that matter. Pills only mask the symptoms of an underlying problem (disorder) and, in most cases, do little or nothing to help resolve the problem. After over 30 years in the field, I am not aware of a single medication that “cures” a psychological disorder. Psychotherapy by a trained, licensed professional is currently the most effective treatment for anxiety and depression and, by the American Psychiatric Association's (APA) own admission, the cognitive behavioral therapies (CBT) are the most effective treatments for most disorders.

The APA, a large and powerful special interest group, and proponent of the "medical model" (physicians/psychiatrists and pills/"Big Pharma" ... another massive and very powerful special interest group), has blocked Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) access to many government programs because we (LPCs) are a threat to the status quo. If people (Veterans in this case) actually receive treatment (therapy) and resolve or reduce their psychological problems, what need would there be for psychiatrists and/or pills? There would be little or none ... big problem for psychiatrists and the big pharmaceutical companies that bring in tens of billions of dollars each year from psychotropic medication (antidepressants, antipsychotics, etc.) prescriptions.  So the APA does whatever they can to make sure LPCs are blocked from government jobs and contracts just as they are doing by controlling puppets like Paul Rieckhoff, IAVA, and Congress, ensuring that only psychiatry students receive financial support (and, eventually, jobs) under the Clay Hunt SAV Act.

Paul Rieckhoff, founder and CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), of which I am currently a member, possibly for not much longer, sits atop his throne at HQ/IAVA on Madison Avenue (another topic altogether - why does a non-profit need an office on Madison Avenue when that money could be going to help Veterans?) and makes decisions affecting millions of Veterans, apparently without proper counsel. When a longtime proponent of and advocate for effective mental health treatment for our Veterans, me, a retired military officer and Veteran of four combat operations as well as a clinician with decades of experience treating military and Veterans with PTSD, anxiety, and depression offered constructive criticism to Mr. Rieckhoff on Twitter:
Mr. Rieckhoff responded with this defensive and poorly conceived notion:
Beside being defensive when an expert in the field offered very accurate, factual, and compassionate advice with only the best interests of Vets in mind (I am not selling anything, do not have an office on Madison Avenue, nor do I have a massive ego to feed by getting face-time with Congress and the President of the United States), Mr. Rieckhoff is either completely ignorant and/or controlled by the powerful special interests (e.g. APA, big pharma) if he truly believes that, pardon my English, bullshit. 

Of course the APA disagrees with me because they have a very big dog in that hunt ... it is called money, a lot of it! In regard to "every veteran group in America", they would of course be remiss not to support such legislation to reduce Veteran suicides.  The problem being that, like Mr. Rieckhoff and IAVA, those groups also do not completely understand the issue.  Mr. Rieckhoff obviously also does not understand that Licensed Psychologists and LPCs are key to effective therapy and the long-term resolution of psychological problems, not just the symptoms, helping America's Veterans to heal, not just cope with their symptoms (e.g. taking antidepressant medications).

According to Roethel (2012), the National Center for Health Statistics reports that:

1. Americans are taking more antidepressant medications than ever before. When researchers compared the data from 1988 to 1994 with data from 2005 to 2008, they found that the rate of antidepressant use increased by almost 400 percent. 

2. Antidepressants rank among the top prescription drugs among U.S. adults up to age 44, they are the most common prescription medication for Americans between the ages of 18 and 44, and the third most commonly prescribed drug across all age groups.

3. 60 percent of Americans taking antidepressant medications have used them for two years or more and 14 percent have taken them for more than 10 years.

4. 11 percent of Americans over age 12 take antidepressants.

According to Cohen (2007), the "U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looked at 2.4 billion drugs prescribed in visits to doctors and hospitals in 2005. Of those, 118 million were for antidepressants" alone.

Big Pharma has long been tied (financially) to the APA in general and psychiatrists in particular:
In March 2009, the American Psychiatric Association announced that it would phase out pharmaceutical funding of continuing medical education seminars and meals at its conventions.  However, the decision came only after years of controversial exposure of its conflict of interest with the pharmaceutical industry and the U.S. Senate Finance Committee requesting in July 2008 that the APA provide accounts for all of its pharmaceutical funding.  Despite its announcement, within two months, the APA accepted more than $1.7 million in pharmaceutical company funds for its annual conference, held in San Francisco. 
With the U.S. prescribing antipsychotics to children and adolescents at a rate six times greater than the U.K., and with 30 million Americans having taken antidepressants for a “chemical imbalance” that psychiatrists admit is a pharmaceutical marketing campaign, not scientific fact, it is no wonder that the conflict of interest between psychiatry and Big Pharma is under congressional investigation. (CCHR International, No Date)
New Yorker Magazine reported (Greenberg, 2013) that “It’s been just over twenty-five years since Prozac came to market, and more than twenty per cent of Americans now regularly take mind-altering drugs prescribed by their doctors. Almost as familiar as brands like Zoloft and Lexapro is the worry about what it means that the daily routine in many households, for parents and children alike, includes a dose of medications that are poorly understood and whose long-term effects on the body are unknown. Despite our ambivalence, sales of psychiatric drugs amounted to more than seventy billion dollars in 2010. They have become yet another commodity that consumers have learned to live with or even enjoy, like S.U.V.s or Cheetos.”

Unfortunately, there are also many uninformed or ignorant people in the world who do not understand the difference between psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, and social workers, much less all of the unlicensed frauds out there taking advantage of people and the system, lumping all psychotherapists under the label "psychiatrist". FYI folks ... a psychiatrist is a medical doctor (M.D.) and normally prescribes pills, being much different than psychologists, counselors, and social workers who are trained primarily in psychotherapy and do not prescribe medications. You can read more about the differences here.

I recently asked you to please show your support for the Clay Hunt SAV Act by writing to your representatives and let them know that something must be done to help reduce the number of Veteran suicides (22) each day and that the answer is not more psychiatrists in the Veterans Affairs (VA) system or subsidizing their education. As I stated, the best answer is effective, empirically supported treatment by well-trained, licensed, professional psychotherapists (psychologists, LPCs, and social workers), insisting that the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for Veterans Act MUST BE AMENDED to also include the subsidizing of LPCs, social workers, and psychologists in-training, not just psychiatrists. 

Unfortunately, Mr. Reickhoff apparently does not like to listen to Veterans or experts in the field before proposing legislation that affects millions of Veterans and reduces the number of suicides as the Clay Hunt SAV Act has now passed both Houses of Congress with no changes.  What a shame! Maybe if Paul Rieckhoff cared about Veterans as much as his massive ego, he would have consulted with real experts instead of only the large special interest groups before drafting such a critical piece of legislation affecting our brothers and sisters-in-arms.

Do not get me wrong, the Clay Hunt SAV Act is a start and I am extremely pleased that our government has finally recognized that there is a problem as well as a need for a solution. I am only saddened by the fact that such a poorly conceived notion, that more psychiatrists are the answer to the Veteran suicide problem, was put before Congress and ultimately the President for signature in this landmark legislation.

You can read more about my views on mental health treatment, and the associated stigmas, among military and Veterans as well as the implications in regard to PTSD and suicide in my article: The Stigma Killing American Heroes on my blog and as published in De Oppresso Liber magazine.

Here are a few more articles from my blog that are related to the information detailed above if you want to do some more reading:


CCHR International (No Date): Shrinks for Sale: Psychiatry’s Conflicted Alliance - The Corrupt Alliance of the Psychiatric-Pharmaceutical Industry

Cohen, Elizabeth: CDC: Antidepressants Most Prescribed Drugs in U.S., July 9, 2007, CNN: 

Greenberg, Gary: The Psychiatric Drug Crisis. New Yorker Magazine, September 3, 2013 Issue – Elements:

Roethel, Kathryn: Antidepressants - Nation's Top Prescription, Published 4:49 pm, Tuesday, November 13, 2012, SFGate: 

Title: Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for Veterans Act ... Great Idea, Poor Execution

Key Words: Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention Act, SAV, ACT, Afghanistan, America, anxiety, Clay, Clay Hunt, depression, Hunt, IAVA, Iraq, legislation, Paul Rieckhoff, prevention, suicide, veterans, PTSD