“I have a question,” asserted the group leader. “Has it been difficult for any of you to ask for help during your recovery?”

A group of male Veterans (who all suffer from substance abuse addictions) looked at the ground as one by one they muttered; “Yeah.”

One gentleman spoke up: “I was taught to never ask for help. You have no idea how shameful it was for me to admit that I have a problem, pack my bags, and come to a substance abuse recovery program after I had been the guy that so many people depended upon for such a long time. It took me almost 20 years to get treatment. I hate that it took me so long.”

The rest of the men all nodded in agreement: “I wish someone had told me that it was okay to ask for help, maybe I would not have hurt so many people in my life if I had gotten treatment sooner.” A somber mood was cast across the room, as each member reflected on their own journey of recovery.

And, sadly, too many Veterans are still under the impression that it is not acceptable to ask for mental health or behavioral health help. One study found that of one cohort of soldiers and marines surveyed, 731 of them “screened positively for a mental health problem.” When asked what prevented these 731 from seeking mental health help, 65 percent of them reported that they felt as though they would be considered “weak” and 59 percentu reported that “their unit might have less confidence in them.”

The Paradox of “Being Strong” and “Asking for Help”

Perhaps the most striking reason in putting off getting help has to do with the paradox the military faces “between the mentality of having the ‘right stuff’ and seeking help for problems related to reactions to combat,” including posttraumatic stress.

Even though the mental health problems associated with the battle have been generally experienced as shameful within the Veteran community, mental illnesses are not going away among this population as one study concluded, “It was found that being in combat was highly associated with generalized anxiety and major depression and that PTSD was significantly higher on return.”

In addition to this perceived stigma that mentally ill Veterans experience, “Adults who have gone through shocking experiences often appear incapable of putting them into words, or they are afraid to do so. This inability stands in the way of dealing healthfully with those experiences, and can lead to misunderstanding with the people in their environment,” as well as scare people away from seeking mental health services.”

Getting Help is a Courageous Move

And, thus, the Silent No More campaign was created by Boston VA Creative Expressions and Wellness Center (CEWC) in an attempt to address the concerns surrounding stigma and help frame the initiative to “get help” as a courageous one, rather than a shameful one.

The Silent No More campaign was born out of the idea that no Veteran should suffer in silence from a mental illness of any kind. The campaign is comprised of photographs of Veterans holding up signs of encouragement and the words they wished they heard when they were at a crossroads in their own lives, wondering if they should ask for the help they needed, which some perceived as weak, cowardly, and shameful.

It’s time to live out loud.

The Veterans featured in this poster campaign all voluntarily chose to showcase their words of encouragement for other Veterans who suffer from mental illness, urging them to receive the mental health help they deserve. The Silent No More campaign hopes to attract Veterans of all branches of service, ages, backgrounds, and mental illnesses to the VA for mental health treatment.

The campaign has been featured across the Boston VA Healthcare System, but the CEWC would like the campaign to be showcased nationally, in an attempt to attract Veterans from across the country to VA mental health services so that no Veteran has to suffer in silence. Their lives are too important, their accomplishments too great, and their stories too enthralling for them not to be shared with Veterans and civilians alike.

Veterans should be silent no more. It’s time to live out loud.


About the Authors: This post was written by The Creative Expressions and Wellness Center Veterans

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Published on Jun. 15, 2016

Estimated reading time is 3.6 min.

Views to date: 127

13 Comments

  1. Richard Koger June 22, 2016 at 1:32 pm

    BROTHER i know what you mean about Frank M Tejeda Outpatient Clinic. I was told by one of their shrinks that I had PTSD and that it was bad. This was after two years of counseling. He encouraged me to file for PTSD. I did and went up to 80% on my disability. Last month I had to go back for a reevaluation. After 40 minutes of an hour and a half session, I was sent on my way. I thought that was kind of fast for a reevaluation. Two to three weeks later I received a letter letter that dropped my down to 50 %. With no reason why. This clown made this decision after 40 minutes, while it took a Doc. two years to make that determination. So yes Frank M Tejeda Outpatient Mental Health Clinic sucks a big one.

  2. Douglas Warren Johnson June 19, 2016 at 10:50 am

    It is curious that the discussion in the post makes it appear that if only veterans and active duty would request help, their suffering would be lessened, and they would be supported by their chain of command and the VA. Nothing could be further from the truth. Once it became known in my unit and throughout the US Army Reserve that I was in treatment for depression, my command sought actively to have me separated from the service in such a way that I would be denied all medical and financial benefits. My fellow Soldiers were encouraged by my Commanding Officer and Command Sergeant Major, who destroyed careers as a sport, to stigmatize me, shun me, and otherwise make me feel even worse about myself than I had when I sought treatment. Several other Soldiers who suffered from mental illness were involuntarily separated without benefits or forced to resign. The fear of stigmatization is something that Soldiers and Vetrans are completely justified in being apprehensive of. Moreover, the Commander and Comnand Sergeant Major were decorated, promoted, and are still inflicting a toxic climate of stigmatization on other Soldiers who are foolish enough to believe a blog like this and to seek help. I called on my Congressman, the Honorable Lamar Smith, to stand by lowly Soldiers and Veterans who deployed and risked their lives and health while their higher ranking “leaders” were in the rear echelon in air conditioned comfort and safety, but since the REMFs are the ones who will occupy lobbying positions with rich corporations that will make large contributions to his reelection PAC, guess whose side was taken by a Congressman who boasts in his newsletter about being on the side of Veterans? If you guessed the poor, humble trips who took the risks and now must pay the price, you guessed wrong. And, after destroying my military career by seeking help, I have just been informed by my VA psychologist that he will no longer be able to provide me with treatment. A new chief psychologist has assumed command at Frank M Tejeda Outpatient Clinic. He told my psychologist to end his treatment of all patients that he had been caring for for more than two years. 20 visits with a caregiver is the new ceiling. I was informed that the VA will no longer continue to support me as it has in the past, and to seek support through non-professionals. Veterans are afraid of seeking treatment because they know that the VA will abandon them so that it can save money and brag about how it has “cured” people with chronic conditions that require lifetime treatment.
    I would advise all who read this to spread the word. Seeking help from the VA is a lot worse than not seeking help, even if by not seeking help you are alone, unemployed, and homeless, because that is where you will end up if you are foolish enough to sell help from the VA.

  3. Arthur L. Smith (Larry) June 18, 2016 at 1:31 pm

    I Larry Smith 3(Korean War Veteran) have developed a system where each Veteran has with them all their medical records including MRI’s, lab tests, Urological Charts – everything -with them at all times no matter
    where they are – plus everything is in 14 different languages is required so each Veteran is safe
    and secure no matter where they are in this world! Nothing like it anywhere! NO INTERNET REQUIRED!
    Just a simple laptop is OK.

    I’ve spent some 10 years developing, designing and programming the system. I would be most pleased
    to work with the VA to implement

    I utilize the Phoenix AZ VA facility. They do an excellent job!

    Give me a call and/or an email as to your interest.

    Best regards,

    Larry Smith 3

    • Arnold Cabrall June 20, 2016 at 9:39 pm

      LARRY SMITH DO YOU KNOW WES RICK HE PLAYS THE FLUTE AT THE VA IN PHOENIX MEDICAL CENTER I USED TO LIVED IN PHOENIX ….. I MOVE TO PRESCOTT VALLEY PLUS DO YOU RECREATION THEREPY……THE ONLY THINK I DON’T LIKE VA IN PHX .THE PARING UNLESS IT GOT BETTER……SEMPER FI…….STAY HEALTHY.

  4. John M. Romph June 18, 2016 at 10:54 am

    We moved from Cleveland, Ohio over 25 years ago. Go to the VA in Cleveland and you are work. Quitting time is coming up and get out of my office. This especially holds true in the “Mental Health Clinic.”

    We moved to Atlanta, Georgia and since we moved my brain went screwy and Vietnam came back BUT when I saw the doctors here in the Atlanta Mental Health Clinic I was asked by my doctor if there was anything that especially bothered me about my experience overseas and I replied to her that on February 2, 1968 I had to jump from a guard tower and I jumped onto a dead man that I had to boot from the tower hours earlier because I was getting shot at and couldn’t run around the body lying on the floor.
    Two weeks later I received an e-mail from a VA.Gov e-mail address and when I opened it there wasn’t anything but a link to the “Wall” Site in Washington. Opening the link it showed a wall rubbing with nothing else. Less than 3 days later I received this in my mail, “John, I checked on the casualty list for 2 February, 1968 which was one of the bloodiest days for the American Soldiers, 2 February, ’68 was known by its Holiday name, it was the Tet Offensive.
    John on that day there was only one casualty on the Quinhon Airfield on that bloody day. His name was Ray Carol Banks. John since over the entire Tet Offensive there was only one who passed. John, you DID your job.
    Dr. Will
    Atlanta Department of Veteran Affairs Hospital

    That Doctor considered it part of her job to answer questions raised by her patients. That Doctor went “Over and Above” as far as I’m concerned and she’s no different than any Doctor here in Atlanta where the “Service Connected” are a privilege to serve. When I saw Doctor Will at the Hospital the next time I went there I had to run to her and give her a hug.

    • David g. Sabo June 24, 2016 at 12:58 pm

      I d just keep going for treatment and keep it to yourself until a time you may wish to talk about it.There are a lot more people in your shoes than you may think,your doing something positive,good luck..

  5. Rivera June 18, 2016 at 2:34 am

    I am a veteran from Afghanistan and tried to deal with my situation but I fear losing my civilian job , I’m a cop and even sought help and I feel desperate . I am in treatment but I’m afraid to say .

  6. Ed June 17, 2016 at 2:35 pm

    The part about this that really gets me pissed is, like all personnel that served prior to Sept. 11, 2001. If you said ANYTHING remotely regarding depression or any “mental” pain it was the end of your career.
    I have been fighting with the VA on and off for the last 14 years about this. “IF IT IS NOT IN YOUR RECORD THEN IT DIDN’T HAPPEN”. It is my honest belief that the VA is waiting me out to eat the gun. I have been taking my hand full of “skittles candy” (aka meds) for the last 15 years and I know that they are not doing my guts any good. It’s just a big circle that you ask the VA for help, they take a year or two and come back DENIED.
    If I knew how much they would not hold up their end of the deal, I would have never… NEVER served for 21 years of active duty.

  7. Richard Russell Hatch June 17, 2016 at 11:32 am

    I am a Corean vet. I wish very strongly that the science of ( neural imprinting) be tested for treating mental disorders of all kinds…Richard Russell Hatch ,lives in College Park , Ga. …

    • Western Ranch June 17, 2016 at 9:59 pm

      I have become so afraid to go to a VA Clinic or VAMC after 29 years in their system. Lately they have tis MH stigma that works negatively for my needs. My Service Connected Disabilities are DJD from spine injuries and 2x hernia surgeries w/recurrence and poly and peripheral neuropathy and liver damage. Depression and anxiety found me by way of years of physical chronic pain and suffering and loss of quality of life. Even though these are directly related to the original degenerative diseases which cause chronic pain; when I see a VA MD, they always want to focus on the MH issue instead of the more important disability issues that need Specialists and referrals and medication review, etc.. Last doctor visit he wanted to counsel me and direct me about VA system and CHOICE program, where to seek ER treatment, suicide, etc.; I was confounded at his ignorance. Totally insensitive and ignorant to my own requests and needs. Treating me like some uneducated, ignorant person who was mentally ill. Depression, anxiety or PTSD, MST, etc., does not make a Veteran STUPID, it just makes us hurt and confused and looking for answers at times. When I asked about a testosterone patch to help my mood and energy level, the doctor embarrassed me and pissed me off at the same time. ! He said “Do you really think tax payers should pay for that?” And ” Should I call an escort for you?” And after 1.5 hours of lecture and directions that meant nothing to my health or reason for visit; he gets up and walks away, leaving me. Turning back to say “Don’t be like those liberals!” Unbelievable rude and stupid doctor. Totally burnt out. In his 70’s and old school VA. He was retired Navy too. Anyways he said a whole lot more that was stupid and downgrading. At beginning of appointment he said “I see your not taking narcotics.” Then when I said, that is right, I am allergic to opioid. I told him to look at my record. Then he said “that’s clear as mud.” And then says ” I’m not much of an Eastern medicine doctor; I practice western medicine.” Translation: I want to prescribe you a narcotic. I felt like I was talking with Dr. Frankenstein or Dracula; possibly even Jeffry Dhamer. Anyways, I don’t appreciate these manipulating doctors who treat Veterans with such disrespect . I reported him to the board at the VAMC that he works under. They did help assign me to a different doctor. My opinion and suggestion to all Veterans who are mistreated is to not put up with the BS! Especially when they treat a MH diagnosis like your a walking contagious disease and make you feel different or less of a person than others.

  8. George Husted June 17, 2016 at 11:12 am

    I used to tell my troops to NEVER go see a shrink. I told them to go see a chaplain instead. The reason is that the chaplain has training in psychology and is bound by confidentiality. I know that psychiatrists are supposed to provide confidentiality, but in the military, it goes in your official records and will follow you for the rest of your life. “Anonymity can’t be found within the military system”, according to Carter Andrews, chairman of the mental health counseling nonprofit Not Alone. Troops he hears from would rather vent online anonymously than schedule sessions with their military counselors, even if they promise confidentiality. They lie. It’s that simple. Here is the truth: soldiers seeking psychological counseling with Army specialists are still required to sign confidentiality waivers during their appointments, acknowledging that some information may be discussed outside of sessions. “The standard Army waiver notes that “health records are the property of the U.S. government” and “your chain of command may have limited access to information in your medical file.”

  9. Economy navy June 17, 2016 at 10:43 am

    About time Va did its job. Instead of giving incompetent administration bonuses

  10. Pat Jahnke June 16, 2016 at 4:06 am

    Why do other va place do research, but when it on here it seem other va hospital , have no clue what thier doing to improve Thiers, I have headace hospital SC va test Dozen vets I went to my clinic, NO DOCTOR did not what to hear about it,. Just give me meds, maybe try Botox , the item it no meds it even help vets go off their meds, why do the va doctors refuse to check it out, help a veteran out, give meds and get kick back to picket, it very true doc get a kick back from drugs companies. Proven with dr feel good in Tomah.

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