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Veteran Sought Mental Health Care Before Murder- Suicide

Stiles

A few days before 30-year-old Army veteran Joshua Stiles fatally shot his wife and took his own life, he had tried to get help, but he was turned away.

Stiles, who had been suffering with PTSD, depression and anxiety for years, shot his 22-year-old wife, Brittney Stiles, and then fled the scene. He committed suicide after a police chase.

According to Stiles’ sister, Jennifer Johnson, her brother had contacted a mental health treatment facility, but was told he needed to make an appointment.

He was willing to voluntarily commit himself for psychiatric treatment, but there wasn’t a bed available at Decatur Morgan Hospital. His sister said he then tried Veterans Affairs.

“They said they would send him some paperwork to fill out,” Johnson said. “They said if he was feeling suicidal he should go to the emergency room. At that moment, he wasn’t feeling suicidal. He just knew he was struggling with PTSD and depression.”

Johnson said her brother had been suffering with PTSD long before his military service.

Both Josh and Jennifer had spent time in foster care before going to live with their grandparents.

Josh and his wife had an ongoing domestic dispute the weeks leading up to the tragedy. The two reportedly were arguing at their home and the woman left. Brittney Stiles returned to the home after Joshua called her and threatened their two-year-old daughter if she wouldn’t come home.

Once Brittney returned home with the child, Joshua shot her. Their daughter, who was in the backseat of the mother’s car, was not harmed.

Authorities used a spike strip to deflate tires on the truck. Joshua Stiles reportedly lost control of the truck, hit a tree and then went in a ditch. Authorities surrounded him and used tear gas because they didn’t see any movement.

But as they got closer to the pickup, they realized he had shot himself.

“He wasn’t this person,” Johnson said. “My brother would’ve never done this if he was in his right mind. I wish I could’ve saved him, and I tried. But, the mental health system just makes it too hard.”

There are numerous resources for veterans who are struggling with mental issues, among them, Give an Hour, a non-profit that provides free and confidential mental health resources for those who serve, past and present, and their loved ones; the David Lynch Foundation’s Operation Warrior Wellness (OWW) program, which offers the Transcendental Meditation-based Resilient Warrior Program, a simple, easy-to-learn, evidence-based approach to relieving symptoms of PTSD and major depression and developing greater resilience to stress; and the Veterans Crisis Line  (800-273-8255) which connects veterans in crisis and their families and friends with qualified, caring Department of Veterans Affairs responders through a confidential toll-free hotline.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

VFW Partners with Other Non-Profits to Fight Mental Health Stigma

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By Debbie Gregory.

The VFW has recently launched a campaign to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health, raise awareness, foster community engagement, improve research, and provide intervention for veterans, service members, and their loved ones who may be suffering from invisible injuries or emotional stress.

VFW National Commander Brian Duffy kicked off the VFW’s Mental Wellness Campaign with a panel discussion that included  Dr. Barbara Van Dahlen, founder/president of Give an Hour, One Mind’s chief strategy officer Joan Demetriades, and Jim Murray, director of strategic partnerships for PatientsLikeMe.

“We are proud to be joined by the nation’s leading mental health organizations to help change the veteran’s narrative — the veteran’s brand — which right now has America regarding us more as individual heroes instead of strategic assets in every community,” said Duffy, who is the first Operation Desert Storm veteran to lead the 117-year-old VFW.

The VFW Mental Wellness Campaign leverages the power, influence and reach of nearly 1.7 million members in more than 6,600 VFW Posts around the world with the nation’s leaders in mental health care, research, and peer-to-peer support. Give an Hour has provided free mental health care to service members and their families for 11 years by “harnessing civilian mental health professionals and asking them to step up and give service, give their time to provide care,” according to Van Dahlen. The nonprofit also launched its Campaign to Change Direction nearly two years ago in an effort to “change the greater culture” surrounding mental health. MilitaryConnection.com is a long-time partner of Give an Hour, and has made the pledge to support Change Direction.

Non-profit One Mind also aims to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health. One Mind is building online communities to help those affected by PTS and TBI to connect, learn, share with others, track their progress, become better informed and advocate more effectively for their own health and the health of those they love.

PatientsLikeMe allows users to share symptoms, treatment info, and health outcomes. The website turns information into millions of data points, and then aggregates and organizes the data to reveal new insights. They then share back what they’ve learned with everyone and share the patient experience with the industry so they can develop better products, services, and care.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Veteran Suicide Tragedy in VA Hospital Parking Lot

kaisen

By Debbie Gregory.

A 76-year-old former Navy gunner killed himself outside a Long Island Veteran Affairs facility after allegedly being denied treatment for mental health issues. The tragedy unfolded at the Northport Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

Peter Kaisen, a retired police officer from Islip, New York, shot himself in the parking lot outside Building 92, the facility’s nursing home. He had served on Navy supply ship USS Denebola in the late ’50s through the early ’60s.

Kaisen’s wife, Joan, said that her husband had been suffering from back pain so severe that he was unable to sit for more than a few minutes. Doctors at Northport told her husband earlier this year there was nothing more they could do to ease his suffering.

Longtime friend and fellow veteran, Tom Farley, said, “We all think there is probably some depression. Maybe he wanted meds. Maybe he wanted to sit and talk. I don’t know. None of the family knows.”

Hospital spokesman, Christopher Todd Goodman, said the hospital had no evidence that Kaisen sought treatment at the emergency room, entered any hospital buildings or had any interactions with staff or patients on the day he died. But he added, “The employees here at Northport feel this loss deeply and extend their thoughts and prayers to all those impacted by this tragedy.”

U.S. Reps. Peter King and Steve Israel have requested an FBI investigation into the death.

There are a number of resources available to veterans who are struggling with mental health issues. We hope anyone in a similar situation will reach out for help to resources such as Give an Hour and the Veteran Crisis Line.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Employer Survey Reveals Surprising Attitude Towards Vets

survey

By Debbie Gregory.

While American employers see veterans as “heroes,” they don’t necessarily see them as “assets”, according to a recent survey.

The survey, done by the Edelman marketing firm, found that the designation of “hero” can create an emotional distance between veterans and civilians.  This in turn can make it difficult for civilians to connect with veterans and view them as potential colleagues.

The online survey found that 84% of employers and 75% of civilians see veterans as heroes. But only 26% of employers and 22% of civilians think veterans are “strategic assets” in their communities.

The survey also found that employers most commonly think about mental health problems when they think about veterans.

While the jobless rate for veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan has decreased in recent years, there are concerns about the quality of employment.

Survey results were released as part of a joint effort by Edelman, Give an Hour, a non-profit organization that provides counseling to troops and veterans, and the George W. Bush Institute.

“The issue is about long-term job fit, advancement, retention. Is the veteran given the same look as others?” said  Barbara Van Dahlen, founder and president of Give an Hour.

The goal was to examine the “well-being” of veterans and what was described as an ongoing schism between civilians and those who serve in the military, according to Van Dahlen.

Van Dahlen said the contrasting view that veterans are heroes, but not assets, is a product of an American culture in need of heroes, but lacking understanding of its military. “These folks come home from war, they’ve seen and done things that would make many of us feel uneasy, uncomfortable, intimidated. And so by seeing them in this way, as heroes, it does keep us distant from them.”

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

CENTCOM Senior Enlisted Leader Open About Personal Mental Health

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By Debbie Gregory.

When Command Sgt. Maj. Christopher Greca posted on Facebook that he was taking time off to deal with physical, mental and emotional issues, he did so with the hopes of helping others. Perhaps if someone in his position could reach out for professional help, it could go a long way in de-stigmatizing asking for and receiving treatment.

Greca wrote, ““I was struggling a bit over the past few years and more so in the past 6 months — physically (knee/neck surgeries, balance issues, vision), mentally (lack of sleep, memory and concentration), and emotionally (withdrawing, losing interest in what were formerly fun activities). All these things made me realize I needed some professional help.”

He ended the post by saying, “I share my story as an example of a Soldier/Service Member who needed help, recognized this with the assistance of family/friends, and got it! Now I am ready to better resume my duties as the Central Command CSEL, and am in a much better place physically, mentally, and emotionally to serve all throughout the AOR! Please share as this Senior Leader was not afraid to ask for help when he needed it — AND NEITHER SHOULD YOU!”

The post has been shared over 400 times and has over 1,000 likes.

Greca’s message echoes that of Give An Hour (GAH). Their providers are working to reduce the stigma associated with mental health by participating in and leading education, training, and outreach efforts in schools and communities and around military bases.

GAH’s Campaign to Change Direction encourages everyone to learn the five signs that may indicate someone in emotional pain. By knowing what to look for, we can all recognize the symptoms and encourage those who are suffering to get help.

Military Connection is a proud partner and supporter of both Give an Hour and the Campaign to Change Direction. We salute them for the great work they are doing.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Addressing Mental Healthcare Stigma: Military Connection

Addressing Mental Healthcare Stigma

By Debbie Gregory.

The Pentagon and VA are becoming more proactive in promoting mental health treatment to troops and veterans, but many still refuse to get care, concerned about stigma, their jobs and psychiatric medications

Negative perceptions of mental health conditions and treatment continue to keep troops and veterans from seeking care, but the issue is larger than just the stigma of a diagnosis; it is complicated by concerns over keeping their careers and not wanting to be medicated, panelists said.

Various mental health groups are diligently working to destigmatize mental health issues. Among the groups that Military Connection works with are the Campaign to Change Direction, Give an Hour, and the Soldiers Project, just to name a few.

While stigma regarding mental health conditions is not unique to the military, it does seem to hit the military and veteran communities harder, perhaps due to the culture.

The number of first-time mental health diagnoses among active-duty members has risen steadily, from 132,079 in 2000 to 232,184 in 2012, according to the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center.

And mental health diagnoses are the third most common diagnoses at VA behind musculoskeletal ailments and ill-defined conditions.

Another concern regarding treatment is fear of taking medication. While many patients can take medications without experiencing bad side effects, some antidepressants and other psychiatric drugs have side effects such as weight gain, sexual dysfunction, lethargy and more, and troops are hesitant to take anything that affects their game.

The government has quadrupled its mental health programs in the past six years. But it can do more, the experts said, to include promoting mental health care and understanding among primary care physicians, who can serve as liaisons between patients and mental health providers, promote community services and collaborate with community and private health organizations.

According to Navy Capt. Michael Colston, director of the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury, mental health treatment must become accepted by the mainstream.

“Mental health care is health care.  As for the self-stigma, we need to do research on that to determine how to fix it,” Colston said.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Resources for PTSD Awareness and Treatment: Military Connection

military connection: ptsd

By Debbie Gregory.

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), 11 to 20 percent of OEF or OIF active duty service members and Veterans have symptoms of PTSD. There is a plethora of articles regarding awareness, diagnosing and treating PTSD, as well as a wealth of resources available.

The Real Warriors Campaign is a multimedia public awareness campaign designed to encourage help-seeking behavior among service members, veterans and military families coping with invisible wounds. Launched by the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE) in 2009, the campaign is an integral part of the Defense Department’s overall effort to encourage warriors and families to seek appropriate care and support for psychological health concerns. The website provides numerous resources, including articles, apps and tools, to name a few.

Physician Advocates for Veterans (PAVE) has a network of retired physicians who volunteer to help military Veterans and their caregivers better understand their healthcare conditions and options. They also assist in managing the interactions between the patients and their healthcare providers. PAVE physicians will spend the time Veterans and their families need to be sure you comprehend your choices. This empowers veterans to make more informed decisions and obtain improved outcomes. All PAVE’s services are provided free of any costs.

Psych Armour is a not for profit company that provides education and support to the civilian community, in order to teach them how to best work with military members and Veterans. PsychArmor Institute is the nation’s leading organization in providing innovative training and effective support to all civilians, arming them with everything they need to work confidently and effectively with military and veteran populations. While they do charge for membership, members have access to an extensive library of online courses and continual support through their Civilian Support Center. Additionally, members have the opportunity to interact with other civilians who are serving those who served.

Give an Hour is dedicated to assisting those facing mental health issues created through the military service of those who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Their volunteer providers donate free, easily accessible confidential counseling to military members and their loved ones. They can quickly respond to those who don’t have access to military or VA facilities, and give help to those who seek confidential care separate from the military environment.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their families. We are the go-to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go-to site.

Resources for PTSD Awareness and Treatment: Military Connection: by Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: High Tech Health Care for Vets

give an hour

By Debbie Gregory.

When one looks at technological advances in the last 10 years, numerous discoveries in medicine and engineering may have been expected, but who could have known IT technology would fast path into our daily lives as it has. The internet was exploding, and while social media and commerce were finding their part in society, the potential for healthcare to be high tech was still somewhat “sci-fi”.

Impressed by the way people connected via the internet with forums and message boards, Dr. Barbara Van Dahlen was forward-minded in realizing the applications this medium could take in areas such as mental health. As a licensed clinical psychologist, Van Dahlen was very aware of the challenges, especially as it pertained to our military troops and families, in addressing acute and chronic conditions with professionals in their demographic region or specific to their health needs.

With this inspiration, Van Dahlen founded Give an Hour (GAH), a network of volunteer professionals in areas of mental health, offering resources and advice to the military, particularly those affected by the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, GAH serves military families with video chats, connecting them with services that might otherwise not be available in their area. Give an Hour partners with Booz Allen Hamilton, a leading provider of management and technology consulting services to the US government, to analyze data and ultimately deliver better services.

On Give an Hour’s horizon, the organization is hoping to create an alliance with Doctors on Demand, offering an app for families to reach healthcare professionals in a virtual environment. It is Dr. Van Dahlen’s goal to raise higher awareness of the needs of the military and their families in order to break the barriers that still exist around mental health.

Dr. Barbara Van Dahlen and her team are tireless advocates for destigmatizing the mental health issues that plague our nation’s heroes, allowing them to get the help they need, and ultimately, saving and rebuilding lives. Military Connection and CEO Debbie Gregory are proud to continue their partnership with Give an Hour.

As the Department of Veterans’ Affairs faces the undertaking of updating their overall healthcare system, Dr. Van Dahlen’s mission is even more imperative to bring a much needed high tech approach to mental healthcare.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: High Tech Health Care for Vets: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Combatting Mental Health Issues

 

By Debbie Gregory

Approximately one in five adults- more than 40 million Americans- suffer with a diagnosable mental condition, such as depression or anxiety. When the statistics are this high, does it make sense to place a negative stigma on Veterans suffering from PTSD or other mental illnesses upon their return to civilian life?

Michelle Obama was a participant in the Joining Forces initiative for Give an Hour’s conference at the Newseum. Give an Hour is a great non-profit, made up of mental health professionals who provide free counseling to the troops, Veterans, and family members who have been affected by war. The first lady hopes this will help eliminate the stigma attached to seeking help for mental-health issues.

For some reason, mental health issues are often perceived differently from diseases such as cancer, diabetes, or asthma. “That makes no sense,” the first lady said. “Whether an illness affects your heart, your leg or your brain, it’s still an illness. So there should be absolutely no stigma around mental health. None. Zero.”

Mrs. Obama stresses that it is time to “flip the script” on mental health in this country. “It’s time. It’s time to tell everyone who’s dealing with a mental health issue that they’re not alone, and that getting support and treatment isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of strength.”

Not all Veterans are plagued with mental-health issues, but the Veterans who do struggle need support.

The First Lady shared one Veteran’s story. Ryan Rigdon, a Navy Veteran, deployed twice to Iraq to disarm enemy bombs. In Baghdad, Ryan came across a camouflaged IED that was live. While didn’t have his protective suit on, he knew the device could explode at any time. So he flipped it over and disarmed it with his bare hands.

After this, he began to experience extreme emotional highs and lows, severe headaches, ringing in his ears, and panic attacks. Once he was out of the military and back to civilian life, he faced additional struggles with his family, a sick child, and unemployment.

After hitting rock bottom and a contemplating suicide, Rigdon was encouraged to seek help. He connected with Give an Hour through the Veterans Affairs Department.

“In Ryan’s story we hear the story of far too many of our veterans: – the struggle to adjust to a new life [and] the terrors and anxieties that just won’t go away, even when they’re back home, safe in their own beds,” the first lady said.

Give an Hour is co-sponsoring the Campaign to Change Direction with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. SAMHSA will provide subject-matter expertise and will coordinate federal outreach through the Veterans Affairs, Defense and Health and Human Services department.

For more information, please visit http://www.giveanhour.org.

MilitaryConnection.com is a proud media sponsor for both Give an Hour and the Campaign to Change Direction.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: Combatting Mental Health Issues: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Mega Concert Aids Give an Hour: By Debbie Gregory

Concert for ValorVeterans and patriotic Americans throughout the nation are eagerly anticipating  the airing of The Concert for Valor on Veterans Day.

The Concert for Valor is an extravaganza sponsored in part by Starbucks, HBO and Chase. The event will feature musical performances by The Black Keys, Bruce Springsteen, Carrie Underwood, Dave Grohl, Eminem, Jessie J, Metallica, Rihanna, and the Zac Brown Band. It will also feature special appearances by Bob Woodruff, Bryan Cranston, George Lopez, Jack Black, Jamie Foxx, and John Oliver. Also participating will be Meryl Streep, Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, and Will Smith.

The Concert for Valor will be broadcasted live from the National Mall in Washington D.C. on Tuesday, November 11, 2014 at 7:00 pm EST (4:00 pm PST). The concert will air on HBO, available to subscribers and nonsubscribers alike.

In addition to honoring the men and women who have served their country in uniform, the show will also raise funds to support charities that benefit Veterans and their families. Sixteen charities were selected to as beneficiaries, based on their outstanding service and support to the Veteran community.

We are proud to announce that our friends at Give an Hour (GAH) were one of the sixteen organizations chosen by the Concert for Valor.  Give an Hour has proven to be one of the most effective resources for Veterans battling mental health concerns.

Since 2001, over 2.5 million service members have deployed in support of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It has been estimated that around 20% of those who deployed suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and approximately 18% suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) in connection with their service. Give an Hour exists to help these men and women get the treatment and support they need, at no cost to them.

Give an Hour functions as a support network of visitors (Veteran patients), mental healthcare providers, and community organizations. All participants register with Give an Hour, and when a visitor is in need of treatment, GAH browses their directory for a registered provider near the visitor. An appointment is scheduled, and treatment begins. When treatment has been completed, the visitor returns to the Give an Hour website and fills out a questionnaire about their care. Visitors are then encouraged to browse community organizations near them, and volunteer their time to pay it forward.

Give an Hour is in every state, with a national network of over 7,000 mental healthcare professionals. The organization has provided more than 100,000 hours of treatment to Veterans and their family members, without the use of insurance or any money exchanging hands.

All Americans are invited to celebrate Veterans Day 2014 by thanking our nation’s Veterans, and tuning in to watch The Concert for Valor. Watching the event and participating in the fundraiser is a great way to show your appreciation for America’s Veterans, and to support the organizations that are helping them the most.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: Mega Concert Will Aid Give an Hour: By Debbie Gregory