Episode 273: Scott DeLuzio Overcoming Stigma Surrounding Mental Health in the Military Transcript

This transcript is from episode 273 on Overcoming Stigma Surrounding Mental Health in the Military.

Scott DeLuzio: [00:00:00] Thanks for tuning in to the Drive On Podcast where we are focused on giving hope and strength to the entire military community. Whether you’re a veteran, active duty, guard, reserve, or a family member, this podcast will share inspirational stories and resources that are useful to you. I’m your host, Scott DeLuzio, and now let’s get on with the show.

Hey everybody. Welcome back to the Drive On Podcast. Today. I want to talk about. The stigma. And overcoming the stigma surrounding mental health in the military, in the veteran community. I mean, it’s no secret that there is a stigma associated with. Mental health in the military. And. Service members are the protectors. It makes sense. They’re the ones who.

Going to help others. Big other people go to them for help. So you can help is almost admitting defeat. And as any soldier will tell you, [00:01:00] they’ll never accept a feat.


Why is it so hard? For us to accept, help. I mean, it’s a culture in the military culture. We have this. Stigma around mental health.

The stigma of mental health in the military. I got, imagine it’s rooted in this. Belief. That service members have to have no defects. They have to be. Perfectly. Mentally fit, physically fit. A hundred percent ready to go. To be mission ready. That there can’t be anything wrong with them.

Because of that. I think the service members see that their jobs or their security clearances or something else. We will be in jeopardy. If they go and seek mental health. Treatment. So they’re not exactly encouraged to go and get help if. Their jobs or livelihoods or their security clearances [00:02:00] or things along those lines are.

Put at risk. Even outside the military culture, we as a society take pride in being able to care for ourselves. People having the mindset I’m strong. I can handle anything. Does just tends to be the attitude that we. Ended up taking, I can handle this. There’s no. No issue, I can’t handle. So, why do I need to go and get help?

But if you think about it, we go and get help for a lot of other things. What a trivial things in our lives, things that. We maybe just can’t do on our own, you know, I.

And not a mechanic. I take my car to go and get fixed every time they, it, a light comes on on the dashboard or it starts making a clunking noise. That sounds kind of funky. seemed like the brakes need to be checked or whatever, like all those kinds of things. I take the car to a mechanic to go and get fixed. [00:03:00]

Because I don’t know how to do it. Like that’s not my wheelhouse. For other people, maybe that’s their thing and they can handle it and they know how to do all that stuff. Great. Good on you. I’m glad you can. But for me, Even if I did know how to do it. I don’t have the time to. Spend hours tinkering with my car, trying to get it to.

Be fixed and, you know, Working at peak conditions and all that kind of stuff. So I’m going to take it every time. I’m going to take it to somebody else to get it fixed. Most people do something along those lines. I mean, hell we even go and get. Our haircut. Right. So we don’t end up looking like a clown.

Because we screwed up our haircut. Because we didn’t know how to do it. So we go. Get help with something as trivial as that. But we’re not willing to go and get help with our mental health.

I mean, if you were to sign up for a gym membership, And that [00:04:00] gym. Was to tell you, Hey, you get a free personal trainer along with your member membership. Of course you would take advantage of that personal trainer. Because they’re going to help you get physically fit and they’re going to help you achieve your goals and all that kind of stuff. So why wouldn’t you.

Take advantage of. The mental health options and the mental health treatments that are available. Very often for many veterans and service members absolutely free of charge. Like you don’t have to pay for anything. In a lot of cases. So why wouldn’t you take advantage of this to get yourself to that peak level, to achieve those goals that you might have?

Then I think another issue too, that we have is for the people even who do start with their treatment. Is that they drop out from the treatment. Someone’s going to start the treatment because maybe their spouses on their case and saying, Hey, you need to go. Get some help because you’re not the same person that you were before you [00:05:00] deployed or your chain of command, your leadership.

It was pushing you to go get help because maybe you’re not. At your peak levels, the type of soldier, sailor, Marine, airman, whatever it is. You’re not that type of person that you were before and they they’re noticing that there’s some issues and they want you to go get help. So you do you go and get help?

Maybe it’s just cause you want to stop the nagging. Got gas. I’m checking the box. I’m going to do it.

But then. After a little while you drop out, because you think that you can just handle these problems on your own. Oh yeah, I’ll be fine. I I’ve. Gone through enough of this. I know what I’m doing now. I. I identified maybe a couple of key hotspot areas and. I just know. Okay. I need to take a little bit better care of myself and I’ll, I’ll pay a little more attention to that. I’ll be fine. I can be okay with that.

When I first went to counseling. I was totally guilty of that. I stopped when I thought I was, you know, quote unquote. Cured or whatever that means. I guess I thought that I can just handle things on my own. And this only led to the same [00:06:00] problems. Creeping back up. Just a short time later.

A couple of, couple of years later, it just, everything kind of came right back. So it wasn’t that I was cured. I just, maybe I was getting burnt out on the treatment. I think that’s definitely a possibility I don’t think there’s anything wrong with taking a break from a treatment because sometimes it’s pretty intense and.

If you.

Keep going, keep going, keep going, try one treatment and then immediately start the next treatment. And then immediately start the next one. After that. You might get burnt out because some of these are, are hard to deal with. Things like prolonged exposure therapy is one that I’ve tried. And it can be pretty intense when you’re.

Basically exposing yourself to the trauma that. You’ve been dealing with all these years, all this time. You’re exposing yourself to it over and over again. That could be a lot to deal with. When I returned from Afghanistan. I desperately needed [00:07:00] help with my mental health and. I mean, I had just also brother.

I was suffering from PTSD, which I didn’t exactly realize at the time I. I’m not even entirely sure. I fully understood what PTSD meant at that time. But I didn’t go and get help at first. It took me a while before I actually went and got help. Instead, I dealt with everything by drinking too much.

Stuffing those emotions. Deep down. As they were trying to creep their way back up to the surface and sort of dealing with them. In a healthy way, in a responsible way. I just stuffed them all down. And that led to me. Drinking too much, not sleeping enough. Getting angry, really easily frustrated, angry, all these things. Like what part of that sounds like it’s a good idea. Like none of it is a good idea.

But that’s exactly what I did. And so many other people do that too. And so I think it’s important that we realize and [00:08:00] recognize that there are better ways to deal with these things. I remember. One Christmas after getting back home from Afghanistan, one of the Christmases shortly thereafter, I don’t think it was the first one after maybe the second one after getting back from Afghanistan.

My son got a big wheels bike. W you know, one of those. Plastic bikes when we were kids are black and yellow, I think they’re red and yellow and blue now. Anyways. Just seeing it. The sight of it reminded me of my brother riding on one of those things when he was a kid and it brought me to tears.

Just looking at. Bike a kid’s toy, a piece of plastic. A little bit, a metal piece of plastic in there. But yeah. Naturally. My mental health was just fine. I was doing great. Right. I’m looking at a kid’s toy and I’m crying.

My mind, that was nothing that another drink couldn’t fix. Right.

It’s insanity. When you think about it. We do this to ourselves constantly. We do this over and over and over again, thinking that, oh yeah, I’m going to be fine. There was nothing [00:09:00] fine about that. In my case. And I’m sure there’s a lot of people out there with similar stories. Maybe it’s not a kid’s toy, but maybe it’s something else that reminds them of something.

Traumatic that happened to them. And. They’re doing nothing to deal with it. Nothing healthy. Anyway, it’s nothing productive. They’re doing things, but it’s drinking or pills or whatever it is that you’re doing. Or avoidance altogether. Just not dealing with the problem. And that’s not helpful.

So. These cultural barriers that we have, these things that are keeping us from going and getting the help. But thinking that we can do it all that we are strong and. Capable of doing everything. We’re shooting ourselves in the foot. It’s not helping. It’s not helpful. And there’s an African proverb that says, if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

And unfortunately, in the case of our mental health, when you go fast, when you’re going alone, You may [00:10:00] be heading in the wrong direction. Right. When you have somebody else there who helps guide you in the right direction. You’re going to be able to. Go much further in this mental health journey. Together, you may start off by yourself in that, in the right direction, but you find yourself.

Sabotage sabotaging yourself and moving in the wrong direction.

And we need to get better at moving together.

Leaning on those professionals, family members, friends. All of us can help move. Together in the right direction. Otherwise we’re going to continue seeing the veteran suicide rate climb. We all have heard the statistics. It’s 22 a day. I mean, the number fluctuates, but 22 a days. I guess the.

Poster child number, whatever. The number that everyone quotes. It fluctuates. Every day, obviously it’s not the same exact number every single day. But.

That [00:11:00] number isn’t going to go down. If we’re not doing things to help each other.

I mean, maybe it will eventually once one, all of us. Decided to call it quits. But that’s not a good solution either. That’s a terrible solution.

So it’s important that we. Seek out the mental health. Treatment that is available. Whether you’re still serving in the military, whether you’re a veteran, doesn’t matter to me. Go and seek out, help.

So let’s talk about why it’s important to seek mental health help for those of you who are still on the fence about whether or not we.

Get this kind of treatment. The VA. Has a national veteran suicide prevention, annual report. So for 2022, this is a report I pulled up. They have a national suicide. Sorry, national veteran suicide prevention, annual report. And that report right there is reason number [00:12:00] one, why we need to go get help.

The fact that there is an annual report, meaning every single year they put out a report like this. On this topic of veteran suicide, it’s mind blowing. They have, they have enough content to put out a report. What the hell are we doing to ourselves? The 2022 report is 43 pages long. It should be one page. That one page.

Should say, swallow your pride. Pick up the phone, talk to a professional. If you need help. If you don’t need help pick up the phone. Call a friend, because you’re probably gonna find that you have at least one friend who does need help and doesn’t know where to turn. It doesn’t know who to talk to. It doesn’t know where to go.

Maybe it doesn’t have their head on their shoulders. Right. And you can help them. Fined. What they need.

Before that I was talking about that 20, 22 veteran suicide report. From the VA says that about. That veterans are about 57% more likely to commit suicide than their non [00:13:00] veteran peers. 57% more likely.

71%. Of those veterans suicides involve firearms. Versus about 50% in non-veterans. So get your fucking guns out of the house. If you’re having thoughts of suicide. This isn’t an anti-gun message for anyone who’s about to write me an angry email saying that I’m anti-gun or anti second amendment or any of this bullshit.

This isn’t an anti-gun message. So save it. There are ways to safely store your guns. Depending on where you live, there may be more options than in other places. So I’m not going to go down that rabbit hole and tell you the nuances of every single law and every single thing, and every jurisdiction throughout the country.

There’s way too much of that, and I’m not a lawyer and I’m not gonna figure that out. But there are ways to safely store your guns. Give your guns to a friend or a family member who can hold on to them. [00:14:00]

Say, Hey. I’m having a little bit of trouble right now. I don’t want to do anything that. Is going to be a permanent solution to a temporary problem. I recognize it’s temporary. I’m getting help right now. But could you hold on to these for a couple of months? Or whatever the time period is that you think six months a year, whatever it is, I don’t know who cares.

Can you hang on to these for me?

If you’ve got someone in your family who. Loves you who cares about you? A friend. Family member, a neighbor. Somebody. Who cares about you?

Come on. They’re not going to say no to such a reasonable request like that.

Given to your friend or a family member.

There’s even an organization, Adam, on the podcast a little while back, I might have them back on again, soon in the future here, but the organization’s called hold my guns and they. They make it so easy for you to be able to find a local gun dealer in your area who already has [00:15:00] secure storage. They got safes. They got ways cameras and alarms and all this other shit in their facility.

And you can bring your guns to them. No questions asked. I don’t ask why. Your. Turning your guns over. They don’t ask. If you’re thinking about hurting yourself, they don’t. Think if they don’t ask, if you have mental health problems. They don’t ask if, oh, are you just going on vacation? You want a safe place to store these for a week or two?

You know, they don’t ask any of those questions. So there’s no questions asked. No judgment, no stigma associated with this. It’s just, Hey, it’s a transaction. It’s a business transaction just as if you’re going to buy a pack of gum.

You go there, you bring in your guns. Hey, I need someplace safe to store these for a little while. Okay, cool. We’ll store them for you. And that’s it. When you’re ready to come pick them up, you go pick them up. And that’s that. If you don’t have access to that because this whole, my guns thing, they’re not everywhere quite [00:16:00] yet.

But although they are growing, they’re expanding. So if you know of any gun dealers who are in your area definitely point them in that direction, cause that could definitely help people out. But if you’re one of those states that maybe you can’t give your guns to a friend or a family member without going through all the legal bullshit that comes along with it.

Take, put the key to your gun safe. Around your dog’s collar or. Something like that. You’re going to have to look your dog. In the eye before you go and do something stupid and make a permanent decision like that. And I know a lot of us vets. The reason why I’m picking on dogs here. Is because we like our dogs.

A lot of us, we have dogs. We love our dogs. Dogs sometimes are our reason for getting up in the morning. And.

I mean. Could you really look them in the eye and be like, Hey. This is it. Is it I’m done. I can’t. I can’t do anymore. I can’t go any longer.

And then what they’re just going to be left alone. Right. [00:17:00] No, you don’t want that to happen. So do something like that. If you have no other option, I mean, use your dog. Put the key on the damn dog’s collar.

That dog will save your life.

Besides all of that though. As leaders we should be leading by example. In the military, if you are in any sort of leadership position. I don’t care if you’re a team leader. Squad leader, platoon leader. Whatever it is. I don’t care. Lead by example. If you’re dealing with something. And your troops go and see you getting help.

They’re going to know that it’s okay for them to go get help. That they’re. They’re not going to get ridiculed and not going to get made fun of for going to get help. They’re they’re going to say, Hey, I guess I can do this too. And then. They’re going to go get help.

And that’s going to benefit the military as a whole. If you have mental health issues from any source, I don’t care. We’re talking military and veterans and stuff like that. So obviously combat is, is a thing that we [00:18:00] deal with, but it could be anything, it could be a sexual assault could be a car accident. It could be a.

I don’t know you had a shitty upbringing as a kid. I don’t know whatever it is. You’re depressed. You’re anxious, whatever the case may be. You’re not operating at a hundred percent. When you have mental health issues that you’re dealing with. In unhealthy ways that you’re not dealing with very well, I should say.

When you have a military, when you have service members in the military, you now have a military that isn’t operating at a hundred percent because you’re not operating at a hundred percent. And so the overall military is not operating at a hundred percent. So you’re. Creating a ineffective fighting force.

The military has a whole.

So, this is bigger now than you are. It’s bigger than you. It’s bigger than me. It’s bigger than anybody. This isn’t about your pride or whether or not your shitty chain of command is going to make fun of you for going to get help. Go and get treatment. If they do they’re [00:19:00] douchebags anyway, so fuck that. Fuck what they think.

We just got out of a 20 year war and the way things are going in Europe. It may not be that far from hopping back into another war. So if we aren’t a fighting force, that’s operating at a hundred percent. How the hell can we expect to fare very well against the Russians or the Chinese or whatever the hell might come our way.

We didn’t do all that well. Against a relatively untrained and unskilled force in Afghanistan. So, how are we going to do against train militaries? When we’re not operating at a hundred percent.

When you’re at a hundred percent though. You can start to help bring others up, who aren’t, maybe aren’t at a hundred percent. You can help them. Realize that there are ways that they can get help. They can go talk to somebody. They can go. Try these different things. You can even share your experiences if you want.

And say, Hey, look, I was having [00:20:00] trouble too. And I went and I did this. And this is how I got better. And help them get better too. There’s a saying a rising tide lifts all boats. And when you and somebody else, that other person that you helped are now at a hundred percent.

You can both help out other people who maybe aren’t at a hundred percent. And it’s going to continue to grow exponentially like that. So now those two become four and those four become eight. And so on and so forth, right. The more you help other people. The more those other people are going to be able to help other people too. And maybe it might even be you at some point that needs to help.

And those people will then be able to help you because maybe something else happens. This isn’t a static thing. Like, you know, you. You fix a broken arm and now all of a sudden you’re healed. This is something that ebbs and flows. Maybe, maybe things are going to creep back up and you, you might need some help. Maybe your head’s not going to be on right down the line [00:21:00] and you need to.

Have somebody with their head on right to point you in the right direction, give you the kick in the asset. You might need to get you to where you need to go.

But all of that’s going to require breaking down those cultural barriers and the stigma surrounding mental health. Throughout the military and the veteran populations. So, I mean, leaders.

Again, make sure your troops know the facts about mental health. Know that they can go and get help. In many cases. It isn’t a career ender. To get mental health treatment.

The trips need to know this because there’s a misconception out there that it is a career ender. You go and talk to somebody. You step one foot into that therapist store. And it’s all over. You might as well hang up the uniform before you even stepped in the door. That’s the mindset. But leaders. Do your job.

Tell them. No, that’s not the [00:22:00] case. You can go get help. Your job is still here. Your security clearance is still here. Things are still here. Let them know what the parameters are, let them know so that they understand. Maybe there aren’t situations, maybe, I don’t know all the situations, but maybe there are situations where their career or, or their security clearance may be in jeopardy. Okay.

But in a lot of cases, that is not true.

But a lot of times we take them as absolutes. And we look at it like 100%. If I stepped foot through that door, I’m done. I’m finished. My career is over. What am I going to do next? I’m damaged, broken. I can’t possibly go and talk to somebody. We can’t do that. We gotta be honest with our troops.

And for the mental health providers out there. Some of you. Served in the military. Some of you didn’t.

But you may be dealing with people who are or were in the military. [00:23:00]

And you need to be aware of how the stigma. Affects veterans and service members. Who are seeking your help? It’s important that you as a provider. Address the stigma and the. Attitudes about mental health during. Very first session session. Number one, they walk in that door. Very first thing you should be talking about.

Is a stigma. And how it affects the veterans or the service members. With every new patient that walks through that door since so many patients drop out. Of the treatment after just a one or two sessions. You don’t want that to happen? You want them to stick around because a lot of these. Treatments, they need a dozen or more.

Sessions in order to be effective, some of these whatever they call them, evidence-based treatments. You need to be there consistently week after week after week and get the, put the work in, get the job done. [00:24:00] You’re not going to walk in and magically be cured after one session or two sessions.

Just not, it’s not going to happen. You need to put the work in and it’s hard. It’s difficult sometimes.

But you need to be able to do that.

And. I think all of us, whether it’s veteran service members, families, Providers leadership, whatever. I think we’re all aware. That there are mental health issues in the military and in the veteran circles. But where we fall flat. Is. When it comes to what to do with those issues.

Yeah, the unit may have mental health services. Counselors available to talk to people. Veterans and service members, even there. There’s VA there’s vet center. There’s other resources like that. But there are also hundreds of other options. Okay. And. Which option do we go to. [00:25:00] What. Do I qualify for.

As a veteran. Am I able to go to the VA? Can I get mental health treatment from the VA or the vet center? Or do I have to go someplace else? There’s all these different options. How do I know which ones are available to me? Sometimes it could feel like you’re drinking from a fire hose. When you’re trying to look this stuff up and do this kind of research.

For all these different available options to. And I think maybe one way. That the military. Can help to develop younger troops. Is to have them. Develop there.

Training skills there, their ability to train other soldiers, even as young soldiers. Could be. Privates or specialists.

you know, not quite yet NCO, but you know, those, those levels. They’re going to need some training on training. Other people. And. [00:26:00]

I think one way might be a great way to do this. Maybe I’m wrong. I don’t know. Let me know what you think, but. One way to do this is have them present different options to their unit. A few times per month.

Okay. It doesn’t have to be. Every single option that’s available. One or two options. That maybe people don’t know about, or maybe they do know about it. They just don’t know. Do I qualify for this? Like the VA. I think we all know that the VA offers mental health treatment. But who qualifies, who can go to that? Could could a service member go to the VA?

Do you have to be a veteran? If you have to be a veteran? What are the qualifications? How long did you have to serve? Did you have to serve in combat? Did you have to serve on active duty? Would a reservist or a national guard? Truth, be qualified to go there. All of these things are questions that a lot of people just don’t know, and they don’t know where to find the answers.

So not only will that help the. The individuals who are presenting this information. Learn how to look up this stuff. [00:27:00] And find the information out for themselves, but also help them with their public speaking. It’ll help them with their training and how to teach other people different things. It’s just, it’s one more way of exposing people to.

You know, different ways of, of teaching things, but also it’s providing useful information. I mean. How many times do you sit through stuff that’s so incredibly boring and so incredibly mind numbing. That you’re like, oh my God, this isn’t going to help anyone with anything. And you just tune out. Right. But.

This type of thing. It could be short. It could be a 10 minute presentation. It doesn’t have to be anything long. As a matter of fact, it shouldn’t be anything long. It shouldn’t be an hour long. Talk on what the VA has to offer? No. Break it down to bite-sized pieces. And talk about those small little things.

Knock it out in 10 minutes. It can be done during sergeants timer, something like that. I don’t know what other branches call it, but 10, maybe 15 minute presentation about what the [00:28:00] option is. How it can help. Who’s eligible to receive these services. And it would be great to just have that short little thing.

That way you’re only digesting one or two options at a time. Those tend to stick better than running through a list of 59 different options. Where you gloss over and you’ve got a room full of zombies who suffered from death by PowerPoint. So.

I mean, there’s a lot to this. I can keep going. I think it’s probably pretty obvious by listening to this. I’m pretty passionate about this, and I want people to get the help that they need. And maybe I’ll do something very similar and you can model this in your own. Hell you can even play the episode to your, your unit. Maybe I’ll do something like this. I’ll go through and I’ll knock out a couple different options that people can do and use that as a template and then fill in the blanks with other.

Options that are out there. So, I mean, we talked about things, some of the cultural barriers. That prevent military members and veterans from seeking help. We talked about why you should seek help for mental health issues and ways [00:29:00] to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health.

And I know this. Episode is largely focused on service members, but we did talk a little bit about veterans, but I think the same idea applies to veterans too. If you’re not at a hundred percent. Your family’s not going to be either your job. Won’t be getting a hundred percent from you. The things that do matter to you, won’t be able to get your full attention because you’re not at a hundred percent, so get yourself right.

And for those of you who are still not sure about whether or not you should get mental health to do. Uh Treatment, you.

This, maybe didn’t convince you. Do me a favor. Schedule an appointment anyway. With a mental health provider. Doesn’t have to be with the VA. There are other options. I was just talking about that. There’s there’s so many options out there. Open up the phone book. Or Google, I guess, is probably the more preferred way to go these days.

But I don’t care. Wherever you get the phone number, the email address, [00:30:00] whatever it is. Schedule an appointment. However you want.

Give the process, a chance to work. Give it a few weeks.

See that you make some progress. It’s going to be hard.

But nothing worth doing is, is easy. Anyway. So do it, do the hard thing. And see that it. Can help you. If you allow it to. But just make the appointment. If you’re, if you’re on the fence, just make the appointment and see how it goes.

I mean, what, what does it really hurt to try? Really doesn’t hurt anything. So just give it a try.

Hopefully this helps.

Thanks for listening to the Drive On Podcast. If you want to support the show, please check out Scott’s book, Surviving Son on Amazon. All of the sales from that book go directly back into this podcast and work to help veterans in need. You can also follow the Drive On Podcast on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and wherever you listen [00:31:00] to podcasts.

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