Skip to main content

Military making strides against combat stress, Navy psychiatrist says

From Charley Keyes, CNN Senior National Security Producer
  • Psychiatrists and psychologists deploy with Marines, Cmdr. Charles Benson says
  • The shared war-zone experience "breaks down barriers," he says
  • "It really is about letting the folks know that they have a place to go," he says

Washington (CNN) -- U.S. military doctors are making new progress against a dangerous foe in Afghanistan, combat stress, the military said Thursday.

"I think we are showing success here," Cmdr. Charles Benson, a Navy psychiatrist, said from Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan.

Psychiatrists and psychologists deploy with combat teams, Benson said.

"They actually live with the troops, train with the troops and get out in the field with them," he said from Helmand Province in a video-link question-and-answer session for reporters at the Pentagon. "This allows the Marines to come forward to the psychologists and psychiatrists, ... breaks down the barriers and allows them to become very effective in their jobs delivering mental health care."

Sharing war-zone experiences means Marines are more likely to approach a mental health expert informally.

"You might be waiting in line, and they know you because they see you out there in the field and they understand you can relate to what they are going from," Benson said. "They feel more comfortable coming to chat with you,"

This familiarity can reduce the stigma that in the past has discouraged military personnel from seeking help, he said.

"It really is about letting the folks know that they have a place to go, that they will be accepted and understood," Benson said. "Realize that not every time you go see the mental health provider you end up taken away from your unit, labeled as something or perhaps given some kind of strong medication. That doesn't happen."