May is an important month for a number of reasons. We honor our military service members, spouses, and our mothers this month, but we also raise awareness of the importance of mental health. Like any other element of our health, our mental health is vital to overall wellbeing and, certainly, our quality of life. Yet, for some, seeking help can be a challenge.
For instance, take trauma, which we also recognize in the month of May with a day of awareness. Trauma occurs when an external threat overwhelms a person’s coping resources. The threat of abuse or violence, or witnessing abuse or violence, can also be a traumatic experience. Trauma is often a very difficult thing for men to talk about. The very word seems to imply weakness and femininity to some men. However, it may be easier when we look at the root meaning of the word. The word trauma comes from the Greek word traumat, meaning wound. So, a traumatic event can be viewed as something that has caused a wound to the body, the mind, or the emotions.
Military leaders have implemented policies and procedures to allow service members easy access to mental health services. Unfortunately, this is a complicated task at the user level.
“Veterans face fears of leaders losing confidence in their ability, peers isolating them or making the distressing trip to the wizard and never returning to full duty,” David Smith, retired combat Veteran, Cohen Veterans Network fellow and leader of a men’s trauma support group at the Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinics at Centerstone said. “Veterans often make the choice to suppress their hurt, sadness, fear and insecurity. Over time these emotions are displayed as anger, rage, and violence, which serve as a mask for the guilt and shame that victims of trauma experience. This leads to problems in relationships, employment, and overall quality of life.”
Smith and his colleagues at the Cohen Clinics at Centerstone understand these reactions and offer those who have experienced traumatic events a protected place to engage in healing these invisible wounds. Through individual therapy clients can learn to identify what is the root cause of their trauma and how to identify triggers that lead to negative mental and physical reactions. Group therapy offers a setting to improve coping skills, normalize emotions and reactions to trauma.
“Instead of the dreaded wizard our military members fear, I like to think of our team as understanding magicians,” Smith said. “We can help those experiences lessen their hold on someone, we may not be able to make them disappear, but we can introduce techniques that allow clients to lock negative thoughts in a magical box.”
For more information on mental health services available at the Cohen Clinics at Centerstone call (877) 463-6505 or log on to www.centerstone.org/cohen.
Cohen Military Family Clinic