U-M, DoD team up to combat psychological stigma on and off the field

University of Michigan Depression Center, Department of Defense partnership to combat stigma associated with seeking care for psychological health, traumatic brain injury among veterans, athletes through Real Warriors Campaign


Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-The University of Michigan Depression Center is partnering with the Real Warriors Campaign, a successful United States Department of Defense public education initiative designed to combat the stigma associated with seeking care for PTSD, depression, sleep disturbances, and traumatic brain injury. Originally geared toward servicemen and women, the partnership seeks to encourage athletes to also get the care they need, and to use their powerful voices to convey that getting help is a sign of strength.

Players on the football field have expressed similar concerns to real warriors on the battlefield, and have been rapidly learning that real strength comes from seeking help and returning to their team.

"The stigma around seeking care for PTSD, depression, TBI and related issues can be overcome", says  John Greden, M.D., executive director of the U-M Depression Center. "Players and veterans in sports, and soldiers and veterans in the military are learning that they are not alone, that treatment works, that buddies and teammates can help, and that getting help is a sign of real strength. As a center that has developed special programs specifically to help members of the military and athletes overcome these barriers, we are proud to be partnering with the Real Warriors Campaign."

Sponsored by the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury, the Real Warriors Campaign includes specialized information for warriors on the battlefield and those returning home who are coping with a TBI or related psychological health concerns. The Real Warriors Campaign Web site, www.realwarriors.net, includes stories of service members, such as Marine Corps Sgt. Joshua Hopper, who sought care and still maintain successful military careers.

The U-M Depression Center's initiatives to combat psychological stigma are the Welcome Back Veterans program aimed at military service members and their families facing the challenges of reintegration; and Under the Helmet, aimed at athletes and military service members.

The campaign recognizes that personal voices are important. "The Real Warriors who have volunteered for the campaign are proving through example that resources are available and reaching out makes a real difference," says Brig. Gen. Loree K. Sutton, director of DCoE. "We want all warriors and their families to know that they are not alone."

Visitors to www.realwarriors.net can find TBI and psychological health information, access to resources 24 hours a day, seven days a week through toll-free hotlines, a live chat feature, and the DCoE Outreach Center, which is staffed by health consultants with advanced degrees and expertise in psychological health and TBI concerns. All interactions are strictly confidential.

The U-M Depression Center programs include the Welcome Back Veteran's Buddy-to-Buddy program, a peer support and outreach program developed in partnership with the Michigan Army National Guard and Michigan State University that trains other veterans to help link newly returning soldiers with the care and resources that they need. 

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