Working To Defeat Combat Stress

May 29, 2009

When a service member is in a deployed environment, regardless of the job they do and regardless of whether they even leave the FOB, there are certain things that occur in that environment that can lead to combat stress. Our Troops who have been deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq can attest to the fact that it’s not uncommon for mortars and rockets to fall on the FOBs, so even those who never leave the FOB have the potential of developing combat stress. That’s where the combat stress centers come in. I realize that lately there’s been a focus on those centers, due to the horrific incident that occurred where 5 service members were murdered by a fellow Soldier. The staff at the combat stress centers are dedicated professionals who are there to help anyone seeking their help to combat and manage their stress. They are well aware of what our Troops experience in the combat zone and are there to help those who are struggling.

“We are able to see any service member that is stationed at FOB Kalsu and anyone who needs assistance is sent here to this location,” said Air Force LTC (Dr) Alicia L. Tschirhart, a psychiatrist who is commander of the Kalsu Combat Stress Control Center. The center serves several provinces in Iraq. “I have two enlisted personnel here as well, that do individual counseling, screen patients and do outreach to the community.”1

Approximately 25-30 service members a week are seen at the Kalsu Combat Stress Control Center. Issues that they see the staff there, range from anxiety, depression and even marital problems. Others may be having difficulty sleeping due to the stress they’re experiencing. Confidentiality is very important to most patients, especially who self-refer, or seek help of their own accord. Many still fear that if they seek help, it will cause them problems in their jobs. The stigma of seeking help that the military is working hard to eradicate. According to Tschirhart, they shouldn’t allow those fears should not keep Troops from seeking help.

“For the most part, a Soldier is treated right here at Kalsu with little interruption to their work schedule,” she said. “We try to protect the patient’s confidentiality as much as possible.”2

Keep in mind, that’s standard proceedure in all mental health services, be it military or civilian. However, if the mental health professionals feel that the service member is a danger to themselves or others, then they are obligated to report those concerns. Many different services are available, such as anger management, stress management, tobacco cessation assistance, and other services.

“Most people just need assistance in managing their thoughts, and we do offer therapy as well as prescription medicine treatment,” Tschirhart said.3

I would highly encourage anyone downrange who is experiencing troubles with these types of problems to seek help at their combat stress center. If you’ve still not decided to seek help there, yet feel that you do need help, there are also resources online that can be helpful. A couple of years back, a website was created to assist service members experiencing difficulties. Called simply,Combat Stress Center it offers many resources for those seeking help, as well as providing the locations and phone numbers for the Combat Stress Centers in Iraq. For our Troops, I strongly encourage you to seek help if you’re experiencing difficulties. The combat stress centers are someplace that you can do so.

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