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An Army program aimed at getting soldiers and their spouses to seek help for behavioral health problems showcased its online portal for resources and videos that tell the stories of “real warriors.”
The Real Warriors Campaign’s video, played today at the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual convention in Washington, D.C., showed service members of various ranks and spouses talked about the difficulties of readjusting after a war zone deployment
The multimedia public awareness initiative is designed to reduce stigma identified and encourage “help-seeking behavior,” said Dana Stirk, program manager for Real Warriors Campaign. The website is RealWarriors.net.
“These real warriors have taken it upon themselves to prove that reaching out is a sign of strength,” Stirk said.
Rather than celebrities or military leaders, the program uses people like those it seeks to help because soldiers said that was what they wanted, Stirk said.
Participants in the videos discuss the difficulties associated with deploying and readjusting to life afterward, as well as their fears and concerns about seeking help, and the idea that treatment and support work.
“These are profiles to show families how they live and the effects of being a soldier and reintegrating, everything you deal with every day, they are dealing with,” Stirk said. “
The video shown at AUSA included a sergeant major who admitted she compensated for insomnia by drinking and a major general who said he would get angry over his wartime experiences. The video called on service members and their spouses to communicate and to be understanding of one another.
Lt. Col. Daniel Pinnell, in the video, said he told his wife immediately after his deployment some of the things that were troubling him and giving him nightmares — all part of an effort to accept his experiences and move forward.
“It takes absolute real strength to admit to yourself what you have been through...and to ask for help when you need it,” Pinnell said.
Other videos examine the physical symptoms of exhaustion and explain behavioral issues that lead to misconduct. “It underscores there are resources and people willing to help,” Stirk said.
One of the features of the web site is a 24-hour confidential chat function which is popular because people are often more comfortable typing about their difficulties than talking about them.
“When people are in trouble its often not at a polite time, so they can’t pick up phone at 2 a.m. to call a friend,” Stirk said.
The website also helps spouses connect with each other.
“Taking care of yourself helps your family, it helps you and your soldier...just like a soldier helping himself helps you and helps the family,” she said.