DECIDING IF YOU NEED PROFESSIONAL HELP?
HOW DO I KNOW IF I NEED MENTAL HEALTH TREATMENT?
One way to evaluate whether you could benefit from mental health treatment is to do an “INTERFERENCE CHECK.” An interference check is a self-assessment of how much your problems interfere with your life or keep you from getting what you need or want in your life right now.
Do the mental health problems I am experiencing…
- Interfere with me getting the sleep I need?
- Interfere with my ability to do my work?
- Interfere with my driving?
- Make me avoid contact with people?
- Make me withdraw from others?
- Make me less available to, and caring with my loved ones?
- Lead to frequent verbal or physical fights with others?
- Prevent me from feeling pleasure in my life?
If you answer yes to any these questions, the problem is serious enough that you should consider getting some professional help.
Mental health treatment can help you:
Make sense out of your experience.
Coping better with life and work challenges.
Reduce suffering and confusion that come up when you are reminded of painful deployment experiences.
Help you have a more meaningful life.
You don’t need to know which specific mental health problem is interfering in your life – that is something you can learn in therapy. If your mental health problems are preventing you from seeking or reaching your goals, treatment can offer a way to get you there.
IF YOU THINK YOU DO NEED HELP, WHAT’S STOPPING YOU?
Many veterans recognize their problems are interfering with their lives, but don’t even consider seeking therapy. Why? Here are some of the main barriers that stop veterans from getting the help they need and deserve.
Stigma is defined as “the shame or disgrace attached to something that is regarded as socially unacceptable.” Embarrassment and shame are major reasons why veterans avoid mental health treatment, even when they know they may need it. American society and the US military put a premium on veterans being independent, tough, and strong. Emotional problems are sometimes viewed as a weakness and therefore any signs of them are avoided at all costs.
Here is something to consider: If you tripped on the stairs and broke your leg, and your broken leg interfered with your walking and caused you serious pain, you wouldn’t avoid going to an orthopedic doctor to get treatment. You’ll pay a high price for ignoring emotional pain that disrupts your life just so you can appear strong or avoid embarrassment.
Everyone experiences emotional distress. Everyone goes through times when problems get so bad they interfere with life. Seeking treatment does not diminish your accomplishments in the military or as a civilian; it does not make you a weaker person, nor does it diminish who you are. It takes more strength to get help than it does to maintain the status quo. Unsupportive others
When others close to you learn you sought mental health treatment you may find some resistance on their part or a general lack of support.
You may be challenged with comments such as:
- That stuff doesn’t work.
- You’re too old to change.
- What do you need that for?
- Don’t waste your time.
- You have time for that, but you can’t attend your son’s game?
Or, you may find people you expected to be supportive become uncomfortable and change the topic.
These types of comments may reflect the person’s lack of understanding, their own discomfort and fears, or a lack of empathy and compassion about what you are going through. Sometimes, unsupportive reactions can be the result of resentments about you because of past hurt feelings. Other times, unsupportive reactions come up because they are unaware of what you are struggling with and it is hard for them to relate and sympathize.
Explaining your reasons for seeking treatment may help people understand what you’re going through and what kind of support you need. Better yet, if you can be clear about what you need from others and ask for their support, they may be better prepared to help you.
Instability, adversity, life-stress
You may feel it is not the right time to pursue therapy because of ongoing difficulties or stressors. These circumstances may lead you to believe you cannot find the time, energy, or effort to be in therapy. Having someone that cares about you support you during difficult times can help you manage things and bounce back from stress.
Being private and proud
You trained to be strong, tough, and independent in the military. These qualities might seem at odds with seeking mental health treatment. You may feel as though asking for help erases the strength you demonstrated in the military, but the opposite is true. Would it be at odds with personal values of strength, control, and independence to seek medical care when you need it? Of course not.
Seeking help when it’s needed is an expression of courage, especially because mental health treatment is a completely new challenge and an uncharted territory. If you don’t take care of yourself intelligently and diligently, you will suffer more than you should and eventually your performance and functioning will be compromised, if it is not already.
You have probably learned to suffer in silence and to hide the impact of combat and operational experiences as best you can. Keeping your concerns to yourself may be natural to you and it may be hard to imagine sharing your thoughts and feelings with anyone, let alone someone who was never in the military.
We would like to reassure you seeking mental health treatment means you will work with a trained professional whose moral and ethical obligation is to help you, regardless of what is going on. If you are private and proud and cautious, that is OK. A mental health professional will work with you.