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What is the Real Warriors Campaign?

The Real Warriors Campaign is an initiative through the Psychological Health Center of Excellence (PHCoE) to support the promotion of psychological health, reduce stigma of psychological health concerns and encourage help seeking behavior for service members, veterans and their families.

The campaign website features more than 120 articles for members of the military community. The articles provide practical tools, tips and resources for coping with and seeking care for invisible wounds. Topics include: preparing for all stages of a deployment or other mission, combat stress overview and supporting your service member. The campaign website also features videos of real service members sharing their stories.

For more information, see About the Real Warriors Campaign.

Why is the Real Warriors Campaign important?

The Real Warriors Campaign is designed to encourage help-seeking behavior among service members and veterans coping with invisible wounds. The campaign is important because warriors must be physically and psychologically fit to be at peak performance. Psychological wounds are often invisible and can go untreated. Early intervention often improves the likelihood of successful care and outcomes. Every service member, veteran and their family members should feel comfortable reaching out to their fellow warriors, chain of command and/or community resources for help. Reaching out is a sign of strength that benefits warriors, their families, their units, their service branch and their communities.

What are the psychological health concerns service members and veterans may experience?

Experiencing stress as a result of military life can be common and psychological health concerns can affect anyone. One person’s symptoms may be more severe, occur more frequently or last longer than another’s. Service members and veterans may experience psychological health concerns including combat-related stress, depression, post-traumatic stress or thoughts of suicide.

Common signs or symptoms include:

  • Problems concentrating
  • Troubling memories or nightmares
  • Re-experiencing events or flashbacks
  • Depression
  • Feelings of isolation
  • Withdrawing from or avoiding others
  • Cold sweats
  • Problems sleeping

Early intervention can provide the proper coping tools for these symptoms and sometimes prevent development of chronic concerns. It is important to know yourself. Listen to those you love or serve with to identify changes in your thoughts, behaviors, feelings and physical health.

What is PTSD? Where does it fit into the psychological health picture?

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a trauma and stressor-related disorder. There are four different behavioral symptoms that accompany PTSD: re-experiencing, avoidance, negative conditions and mood, and arousal.  PTSD can occur following a traumatic event. The exposure must result from one or more of the following scenarios, in which the individual:

  • Directly experiences the traumatic event
  • Witnesses the traumatic event in person
  • Learns that the traumatic event occurred to a close family member or close friend (with the actual or threatened death being either violent or accidental)
  • Experiences first-hand repeated or extreme exposure to  details of the traumatic event (not through media, pictures, television or movies unless work-related)

Events include, but are not limited to:

  • Military combat
  • Natural disaster
  • Terrorist incident
  • Serious accident
  • Sexual assault
  • Violence

Most survivors of trauma return to normal given time. Some people will have stress reactions that do not go away on their own or get worse over time. These individuals may develop PTSD.

PTSD is a psychological condition. It is a result of the interaction of biological, psychological, historical and social factors. It is not the result of moral failing or weakness in character.

How does the Defense Department screen for PTSD? How many service members have psychological health concerns after combat?

Psychological health care and support is provided across all stages of deployment. Ongoing support helps meet the needs of service members.

Within five days of returning from deployment, service members complete the Post-Deployment Health Assessment (PDHA). During the PDHA service members meet with a health care provider and discuss any health concerns.

Three to six months after returning, service members complete the mandatory Post-Deployment Health Re-Assessment (PDHRA). The PDHRA checks for physical or psychological health concerns. It is led by commanders for all active duty and reserve component members. The screening and assessment of the PDHRA survey is performed by a primary care provider.

Studies show that 20–30 percent of service members report a psychological health concern after combat.

Reported symptoms include:

  • Sleep disturbance
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Increased alcohol use

These symptoms often improve over time.

What is combat stress?

Combat stress is not an illness. It may be experienced by any service member during peace or war. It may occur due to stressful conditions experienced during assignments.

Combat stress can cause problems with the way one thinks and responds to emotions. Many service members experience changes in behavior. Symptoms may also present in physical form.

Symptoms may appear soon after a stressful event. They can also take weeks or months to appear. Service members may notice changes soon after returning home. If symptoms continue for weeks or months, become worse or include violent or self-destructive behavior, contact the Psychological Health Resource Center at 866-966-1020 or use the live chat, open 24/7, to speak confidentially with a health resource consultant and learn about resources in your area.

Where can my relative call to get assistance?

If you or someone you know needs additional tools or resources for coping with stress:

  • Log on to Real Warriors Live Chat
  • Contact the Psychological Health Resource Center at 866-966-1020. Trained health resource consultants are available 24/7 to offer free assistance for service members, veterans and military families experiencing stress.
  • Contact the Military Crisis Line for 24/7 confidential support at 1-800-273-8255 or chat live

I am in the National Guard or Reserves, where can I get help?

Visit the National Guard and Reserve Resources.

I’ve left the military, can I still get help?

Yes. As a veteran, you are always part of the military family. For information, visit Veterans Resources.

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