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MHAD: De-Stigmatizing Mental Health in the Military Community

On Tuesday May 18th, 2021 the ViacomCBS Veterans Network and other veteran organizations, hosted a panel discussion on de-Stigmatizing mental health in the military community as part of Mental Health Action Day. The panel guests were Army veterans J.R. Martinez and Command Sergeant Major Tonya Oxendine, Navy veteran Steve Giblin, Purple Heart Recipient and Marine Corps veteran Justin Constantine, and Dr. Alexis Iaccarino of Home Base, who has a specialty in Traumatic Brain Injuries.

Check out the full panel discussion on YouTube.


The panel, moderated by CBS News Chief Investigative Correspondent Jim Axelrod, discussed many topics around the stigma of mental health as well as their individual experiences and journey to seek help.

“I loved hearing that the panel recognized mental health as being stigmatized inside and outside of the military,” said Chris Barrett, a Marine Corps Vet. “Bringing awareness to the topic in the larger civilian population can help the military leadership understand how mental health can affect any individual regardless of their military connection.”

Each member of the panel had unique insights and a strong professional awareness regarding the state of mental health in the military. The panel acknowledged that while some of them may have experienced trauma in a combat environment, mental health can affect every member of the military at home and abroad, and that combat was not a pre-requisite for struggling with mental health issues. There was passion, grace, and vulnerability in the conversation as well as advice on getting and seeking treatment for any issues an individual might be dealing with.

“Tonya and Justin's perspectives especially hit hard and provided so many takeaways,” said Mikayla Catoe, of Forest 2 Homes. “Each story proved our belief that we need to show up for this community and try to remove the stigma around mental health as PTSD is real. And "macho" communities, how Justin described it, need people and companies to show up and provide resources. What a great way to kick off Mental Health Action Day events!”

There is a prevalent culture in many military communities that encourage service members to achieve mission accomplishment at all costs. This mindset leads to letting self-care fall to the side. Many active-duty service members and veterans struggle with mental health issues without feeling confident enough to discuss it or seek treatment, due to the fast pace of military operations and a culture or sacrificing self for mission. The military and veteran community can come together to dismantle that culture, and uplift empowering role models like the guests on this panel.

I appreciate the awareness the panel brought to the unique challenges a veteran may experience during their military to civilian transition,” said attendee Dr. Art Gallagher, a Clinical Psychologist focusing on human-animal intervention therapy. “We need more support, awareness, and mentorship for the individuals undergoing that process, and panels like this are a phenomenal first step. I look forward to what ViacomCBS VetNet brings to us in the future.”