Well, it’s a start. The Pentagon and Department of Defense (www.defense.gov) have decided to try to eliminate the “stigma” attached to seeking counseling for trauma-related stress. The government wants to encourage soldiers suffering from Post Traumatic Stress to seek help before it becomes a disorder.

Such soldiers, the government believes, may fail to seek the help they need because they believe it could impact security clearances and derail their careers.

Maybe if the government is successful, brain disorders will be a step closer to achieving parity with other organ disorders – such as heart disease or appendicitis.

The brain is a complicated organ; one that science is just now beginning to understand. It responds to stress by releasing brain chemicals that can affect how its neurons function.

That there is any stigma attached to needing help getting brain chemistry regulated after seeing, for example, a buddy blown up by a roadside bomb is beyond unfair. But when the brain misfires, and behaviors become unpredictable or odd, it scares us. If we see someone in a leg cast – we know why the person limps. But if someone with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can’t keep a job – we don’t readily see why.

That there is definitely a stigma to being labeled “mentally ill” is one reason I resisted seeking advocacy for my ADHD son from the National Association for the Mentally Ill (www.nami.org). I don’t view my son – or myself, I have it, too – as mentally ill. We have a brain chemistry dysfunction in our frontal cortex that impairs our ability to focus and also impacts our impulse control.

We’re not mentally deficient.

My son, Mike, tests in the gifted range in math. I’m listed in Who’s Who in America and won two Emmy awards when I worked in TV news. We have a brain disorder. We’re not nuts – the politically incorrect word for mentally ill. And, like anyone who has a physical problem, we adapt by adopting coping strategies – such as keeping a detailed dayplanner because our brains aren’t “wired” for good time management and organizational skills. (www.nimh.nih.gov/publicat/adhd.cfm).

The soldier who struggles with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after facing death daily in service to his country deserves our respect, our gratitude – and zero stigma for seeking help for a brain disordered by the gruesome reality that is war.

Carol Bogart is a freelance writer. Read her articles at http://www.hubpages.com/ and her blog at http://carolbogart.blogspot.com/. Contact her at 3bogart@sbcglobal.net.  

Be Sociable, Share!