I HATE THE MASK (The Stigma of PTSD)

Today I’ve heard about another soldier who has committed suicide as a result of mental injuries suffered through combat in Afghanistan. It greatly concerns me how many men and women are out there struggling who are police, military or first responders, because of the mental health stigma that we have attached to them reaching out to get help when they’re struggling. We tell our boys not to cry and then this plays through into adult males feeling as though they need to maintain this strong external presence and strong external composure for them to be seen as strong men.

Unfortunately we perpetuate this lie that men reaching out for help is a sign of weakness and that it shows that they can’t cope in their lives. Women, in general, are extremely good at sharing their emotions and helping each other and unfortunately men are terrible at it. We need to help men feel comfortable and confident enough to remove the mask that we all hide behind because of the fear of being judged when we’re struggling or when things get tough. I see that these things are changing slowly in our society but we have many, many men who still believe to be an alpha male and be strong means to be staunch and not talk about our problems.

It is such a major concern. Through my work with the Strong Life Project, dealing with police, military, first responders and many other men around their mental health, it is so apparent that as a society we are still perpetuating this bullshit idea. I see this all the time. I had a conversation only days ago with a man in his mid 40s who is a police officer, who is struggling with mental injuries sustained on duty and his great concern is losing his career and losing his ability to provide for his family and put food on the table because of him needing help with the injuries that he has sustained.

This is something that our military, police and first responders deal with every day but unfortunately we’re not doing enough about it. We are not giving them the comfort that if they reach out for help it won’t be seen as weakness. We’re not giving them the support to show them that it’s a safe environment to be able to get the help they need and the support to get through these injuries and we’re certainly not encouraging them to put their hands up.

There’s a lot of conversation going on at the moment and that’s fantastic, but it needs to be backed up by the actions of our governments and us as a society to come together and show men and women who serve in our military, police and as our first responders that it’s okay to put their hands up for help. I believe that women in these organizations struggle as much as men do because of the alpha type personalities that most women have if they’re going to be in these jobs. It shows that this belief that asking for help is a sign of weakness is systemic within these emergency service communities.

It takes an extremely strong person to go and face what most of us can’t and here we are leaving them to struggle on their own and to me it is disgusting. This needs to change.

 

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