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Veterans View: Silencing the stigma and getting help | COMMENTARY

Silencing the stigma remains a relentless problem for those who have worn the uniform. The influx of urgent information and the reality of disturbing situations create stressors that our service members, veterans, and their families know all too well and it’s unending.

As the former Fort Meade garrison commander, I knew that my decades in uniform took some kind of toll on me. I also hesitated to reach out. Like so many other service members and civilians, I was confronted with the stigma of asking for help. With my experiences as a soldier assigned to Fort Meade and NSA, as well as deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, I was no stranger to the many sides of this stigma. It wasn’t until this 2011 assignment as the Fort Meade garrison commander, however, that I unexpectedly found myself referring some of my service members to resources for drug and alcohol treatment, stress management, treatment of depression, instruction in healthy living and family counseling.

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And, it was time for me to “walk the walk” to take care of myself as well. Today, I do obtain support and take time to process my experiences with people who understand, with people whose business it is to help me work through and walk through my trauma. I feel a whole lot healthier today in every aspect of my life, my relationships, and my community. Have I crossed the finish line? Hell no; as this will take a lot more time, but I have turned a corner from a pretty dark place.

The real question that we must own up to is, why wait?

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Resiliency resources are available for service members and our veterans. No one should ever have to wait. Unfortunately, these important resources are also limited and spread both outside and inside installations. Fragmented lives cannot be supported well with fragmented resources.

In fact, a scattered geography of resources often makes it easier to hide amidst the hustle and bustle, thereby fostering the unwanted stigma. Recognizing this concern, Carroll County, through partnerships between our government (local, state, and federal) and private/public organizations, is committed to taking the time to listen, learn and lead our veterans through potential turbulent waters.

Do you know a Veteran who is at risk of or experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anger management challenges, depression, alcohol/substance use and/or suicide? Do you know a family member of a Veteran who is in need of support due to any of the aforementioned concerns? The following resources are available to Veterans and family members of Veterans in need of assistance:

· Veteran Services Program of Carroll County, 125 Stoner Avenue, Westminster, MD 21157, 410-386-3800. Please call for appointments/information. Services provided: assistance with filing compensation/benefits claims, registering for the VA medical system, referrals to VA services/programs, including addiction and counseling services.

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· Veterans Crisis Hotline, 1-800-273-8255, press 1 or text 838255.

· Baltimore Vet Center, 1777 Reisterstown Road, Suite 199, Baltimore, MD 21208, 410-764-9400. Services provided: individual/group counseling for Veterans, service members and their families; family counseling for military related issues; bereavement counseling; military sexual trauma counseling and referral; community outreach and education; substance abuse assessment and referral; employment referral; referrals to other VA resources.

· Baltimore VA Medical Center, Enrollment in VA healthcare: 410-605-7000, ext. 57324.

· Martinsburg VA Medical Center, Enrollment in VA healthcare: 304-263-0811, option 4.

· Carroll County Mobile Crisis Services, provided by Affiliated Sante Group, 410-952-9552. Services provided seven days per week from 9:00am – 12:00am: Mobile Crisis Team to respond to individuals experiencing a mental health crisis; linkage to mental health resources.

Ed Rothstein is the president of the Board of Carroll County Commissioners as well as a retired Army colonel.

On the first Tuesday of each month, the Times publishes as its editorial a Veterans’ View, an opportunity to draw attention to veterans’ issues as well as to inform and educate the community and all veterans about the multitude of available services.

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