Amid the ongoing discussion about post-traumatic stress disorder and the other psychological health concerns facing our military, it’s imperative that we prove to our servicemembers not only that resources are available, but that they work and that getting necessary treatment does not mean the end of a military career.

During my last deployment to Iraq in 2007, I served as the night-shift leader in the intensive care unit at the Air Force Theater Hospital at Balad Air Base, treating injuries that were primarily the result of improvised explosive device blasts, gunshot wounds and burns. This wasn’t my first deployment, and I felt confident in my years of expertise as a critical care nurse. I didn’t think psychological health issues would affect me. I was wrong.

I soon realized that this deployment was going to be very different. For a while after I returned home, I thought I was managing my stress, but I became withdrawn. I realized that I couldn’t win the battle alone, and I reached out for help. Since then, I’m much happier and have advanced in my job.

It’s now my mission to encourage my fellow servicemembers to understand that resources are available, they work, and that getting treatment doesn’t mean the end of a military career. As part of my mission, I’m volunteering for the Real Warriors Campaign, a public education initiative that’s combating the stigma associated with seeking treatment for psychological health concerns and traumatic brain injury.

Since volunteering for the campaign and filming my video profile, I’ve heard from servicemembers worldwide that this campaign, and the warriors who are sharing their stories, are making a real difference.

The message I and my fellow Real Warriors have for individual servicemembers is this: You are not alone. Every warrior experiences some deployment stress, and talking about it helps.

Lt. Col. Mary CarlisleChief nurse and chief of education and training, 579th Medical GroupBolling Air Force Base, D.C.

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