Behavioral health can be difficult to understand and tough to talk about. You’ve probably heard so many different things about behavioral health that it is hard to even separate myth from fact.
To clear up some of the most common misunderstandings about behavioral health, Guard Your Health partnered with Give an Hour, a nonprofit dedicated to reducing the stigma associated with behavioral health and providing counseling to service members and families.
MYTH #1: BEHAVIORAL HEALTH CONCERNS DON’T AFFECT ME OR ANYONE I KNOW
Fact: Actually, it is very possible that you may know someone with a behavioral health concern, any condition that affects a person’s mood, thinking, and/or actions. Post-traumatic stress, depression, and anxiety are all natural reactions to demanding situations experienced during a deployment or at another tense period in life. According to National Alliance on Mental Illness, in the general population:
- One in five American adults experience a behavioral health concern, such as major depression or post-traumatic stress, in their lifetime.
- 18 percent of American adults live with an anxiety disorder.
MYTH #2: PEOPLE WITH BEHAVIORAL HEALTH CONCERNS SHOULD JUST “SUCK IT UP” AND “GET OVER IT”
Fact: Behavioral health concerns have nothing to do with having a weak character. Many people need support to get through difficult times. Many factors can contribute to behavioral health concerns, including:
- Biological factors, such as genes, physical illness, injury, or brain chemistry.
- Life experiences, such as trauma or abuse.
Support, self-help, and proper care may help relieve mild depression or anxiety. If symptoms persist, visiting a primary care doctor or qualified behavioral health professional can help address stressful missions, invisible wounds of war, or difficult personal experiences.
MYTH #3: IF I ADMIT I HAVE PROBLEMS, EVERYONE WILL THINK I’M “CRAZY”
Fact: A behavioral health concern is similar to a physical concern that requires assessment and support. Behavioral health concerns are:
- Not your fault.
- Not something you can choose to have or not have.
- Not something to be ashamed of.
Turn to a family member, fellow Soldier, Chaplain, or just someone you trust for support. Sharing your concerns with them can help you start building your support network.
MYTH #4: I AM WEAK FOR NEEDING HELP
Fact: Trying to balance work, family life, and your responsibilities as a Citizen-Soldier can be challenging at times. In addition, the stress and strain of mobilizations and possible deployments can affect both you and your loved ones.
Stepping up and seeking support to manage the challenges of being a Citizen-Soldier is a sign of strength and courage, not weakness. Doing so may encourage your fellow Soldiers to also seek help, leading to a stronger, more resilient unit. Take the Life Pledge and support each other.
MYTH #5: I CAN’T DO ANYTHING TO HELP A PERSON WITH A BEHAVIORAL HEALTH CONCERN
Fact: Friends and loved ones can make a big difference by supporting and providing individuals with the care they need. You can help a battle buddy by doing the following:
- Reaching out and letting the person know you are available to talk.
- Helping the person access behavioral health services, such as Give an Hour and the Military Crisis Line.
- Learning and sharing facts about behavioral health, especially if you hear something that isn’t true.
- Treating the person with respect, just as you would anyone else.
- Refusing to define the person by a diagnosis or using labels such as “crazy”.
- If you are in crisis and need immediate help, call the Military Crisis Line at 800-273-8255 and press 1 to talk to someone 24/7.
- Search for free and confidential counseling from a Give an Hour provider near you.
- Get your questions on behavioral health answered 24/7 with the Real Warriors online chat.
- Take a depression screening, anxiety screening, or PTSD screening from Mental Health America.