In this issue
It's not who you know—It's who knows you
By Patrick H. DeLeon, PhD
The Importance of Addressing National Needs
The U.S. Government Accountability Office recently released its report, “Additional Actions Needed to Enhance DoD's Efforts to Address Mental Health Care Stigma,” concluding that military service members perceive that a stigma exists with seeking mental health care. Thirty-seven percent of active duty personnel and 39 percent of reservists responded that they thought seeking mental health care through the military would probably or definitely damage a person's career. The Health Resources and Services Administration ranks mental health disorders in the top five chronic illnesses in the nation, with an estimated 25 percent of adults suffering currently, while nearly half will during their lifetime. Concerned about the perceived shortage of military mental health professionals, the U.S. Senate has proposed that the Department of Defense establish a pilot program utilizing physician assistants (PAs) to provide mental health care, specifically recommending the establishment of a two-year PA psychiatric fellowship program.
In May 2016, Barbara Van Dahlen, president and CEO of Give an Hour, addressed the citizens of New Hampshire in their State House, along with the governor, Sen. Shaheen, and the state's two congresspersons. Those present included members of the faith-based community, representatives from social service agencies, business leaders, educators and caring citizens. The Granite State was about to begin the first statewide launch of the Campaign to Change Direction, Van Dahlen's strategic effort is designed to change the culture of mental health in America. The initial phase focuses on creating a common language by educating all Americans about the five key signs of emotional suffering.
A few weeks earlier, First Lady Michelle Obama joined former President George W. Bush and England's Prince Harry at the opening ceremonies of the 2016 INVICTUS Games in Orlando, Fla., during which wounded service members from 14 nations competed over four days in track and field, swimming, basketball and other Olympic-style sports. Prior to the opening ceremonies, the invisible injuries of war (e.g., PTSD) were highlighted at a special summit hosted by the Bush Institute and attended by high-level officials and dignitaries from participant countries. Prince Harry—who has talked openly about his own experience of flashbacks due to his deployments to Afghanistan—spoke at the event as did Veteran's Affairs Secretary Bob McDonald. Van Dahlen addressed the need for culture change and premiered the new public service announcement for the Campaign to Change Direction. This powerful video features Prince Harry speaking about the need to be more open and honest about mental health. APA's Randy Phelps and Heather O'Beirne Kelly were present.
The First Lady and President Obama personally have been outstanding champions of all Americans learning the five signs: change in personality, agitation, withdrawal, lack of personal care and hopelessness. Give an Hour, which has been enthusiastically supported by numerous celebrities, including my favorite, Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, already has facilitated over 192,000 hours of free mental health care donated by clinicians of all disciplines to our nation's military, veterans and their families. A key question for psychology: Has the leadership of your state psychological association joined the Campaign to Change Direction? Have you encouraged your members to Give an Hour?
Competition Is Always Beneficial
A long-time colleague, Alan Kraut, will soon become the executive director of the Psychological Clinical Science Accreditation System (PCSAS), which began in 2009 and currently is the accrediting agency for 30 clinical training programs in the U.S. and Canada. PCSAS has been recognized by the Council of Higher Education Accreditation, and final regulations for VA recognition are pending. Kraut always has stressed the importance of applying clinical science in ways that are most effective in improving public health.