Ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continue to take their toll on members
of America's armed forces after they return home, not just while they are in
the line of fire.
"All wounds are not physical, but all wounds need attention,"
said former APA President Carolyn Robinowitz, M.D., the day before Veterans
Day. "It's not just the troops but also their family members" who
Robinowitz spoke at a press conference organized by Give an Hour, a
nonprofit group in which psychiatrists and mental health professionals donate
an hour a week of their time to helping these war veterans and their loved
ones cope with the stresses of service, combat, and separation
(Psychiatric News, March 7).
APA and the American Association of Pastoral Counselors have been working
with Give an Hour for much of the last year, said founder Barbara Romberg,
Ph.D., who welcomed the additional participation of the American Psychological
Association and the National Association of Social Workers to the program
during the same press conference.
Give an Hour was developed to address needs not currently met by the
Defense and Veterans Affairs departments.
"Americans respect our servicemen and women but few understand
them," said Romberg, a clinical psychologist in private practice in
Washington, D.C. "They are asking for our time, expertise, and
compassion. The most important service we can provide is to hear their stories
and learn what they have been through."
Those who wear the uniform of the nation earn a commitment from the nation,
stated APA member and retired Brig. Gen. Stephen Xenakis, a U.S. Army medical
corps officer for 28 years, who chaired the press conference.
"Combat changes everyone, and many need help coping," said
Xenakis. "Many service members have not yet asked for help because of
the stigma for the unseen wound. We need to remove the stigma, and seeking
help should not be labeled as a
"Saying 'thanks' isn't enough," added retired Adm. Donald
Arthur, a former Navy surgeon general who is now chief medical officer at Main
Line Health System in Bryn Mawr, Pa. "We should honor their service with
an hour of service—an hour a week to listen, helping to heal the
absolutely normal effects of extraordinary circumstances."
Along with providing services, the professional organizations and the
Department of Defense must do more to reduce the opprobrium attached to
seeking help, the speakers said.
"Two-thirds of military people in one survey said that seeking help
would have a negative effect on their careers," said Robinowitz."
We need more poster children—generals, colonels,
admirals—to come forth and show that mental health treatment improves
lives and careers."
More information about Give an Hour is posted at<www.giveanhour.org>.▪