Report: ‘Stigma’ at State Department for those seeking mental health treatment

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This article is from the Washington Post and describes the changes or lack of changes in the way the State Department treats those who seek mental health services.  After reading this, it seems that nothing has changed.

Read this article and see if you agree with me.  Let me know, won’t you?


Josh Rogin

Foreign Policy
Thursday, August 5, 2010

The State Department is moving to improve how it handles mental health services for employees coming back from high-stress or high-threat postings, but there’s still a great deal of stigma attached to seeking this kind of help and the department needs to do more, according to a new internal report.

“Employees believe there is still a significant stigma attached to seeking mental health assistance,” the State Department Office of Inspector General (OIG) said in a report released last week. The OIG called on State to remove the stigma by issuing a high-level statement encouraging returning diplomats to use the mental health tools at their disposal.

State has been ramping up its efforts, including creating the Deployment Stress Management Program in the Office of Medical Services, and increasing the number of mental-health professionals at the ready. There is also a consultation and interview process called the “High Stress Assignment Outbrief” for when Foreign Service officers get back from the field, but less than 60 percent of those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan go through it. For other high-stress postings, the usage rate is much lower.

There are also more social workers and psychiatrists than ever at the embassies in Baghdad and Kabul, but according to the OIG it’s unclear whether there are enough. The report recommends the department survey the war zones to see if diplomats’ mental needs are being adequately addressed.

Sometimes, simply letting officers know their time abroad was appreciated can go a long way, according to the OIG.

“Some returnees felt a lack of recognition for their service,” the report stated. “The Department could consider such steps as certificates of recognition from the Secretary or more meetings between returnees and senior officials at the Department and posts.”

Here’s the link to the original article.

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