Your beliefs and opinions about stress control can impact your overall well-being. Engaging resources, early, yields best results.

Additionally, leaders must promote help-seeking behavior by reminding Marines at every opportunity that:

  • No one is immune to stress. Anyone at any time can experience stress-related issues regardless of how well-trained and motivated they are.
  • Stigma can stop people from getting help at the earliest opportunity.* Stigma hurts the Marine, the unit, any dependents, and the Corps.
  • Resilience is built by facing issues honestly and getting necessary help as early as possible. If anyone is reluctant to get help for themselves, they might become more motivated by thinking about those who depend on them.

Ways we can break stigma include setting the right command climate, understanding stress reactions, and promoting help-seeking behavior. Specifically:

  • Talk about the Stress Continuum (Ready, Reacting, Injured, Ill).
  • Model the Five Core Leader Functions (Strengthen, Mitigate, Identify, Treat, Reintegrate).
  • Make Operational Stress Control and Readiness (OSCAR) Marines known and accessible.

The Combat Operational Stress Control Program trains OSCAR Marines to listen to those in their unit. OSCAR members are available to help Marines better manage stress. To increase Marine and unit functioning: talk to an OSCAR-trained Marine or a Chaplain or corpsman.

Marine Corps Order 5351.1 ensures that OSCAR team members are there with you in your unit— OSCAR Team Training is a requirement for at least 5% of the unit's personnel or a minimum of 20 Marines and Sailors, whichever is greater of all battalion-level or equivalent commands. OSCAR training is not replaced by Unit Marine Awareness and Prevention Integrated Training.

Proactively talk to Marines about the myths surrounding stress control and explain why the myths are false.

MYTH: Stress reactions aren’t real. This is all in your head and most people are malingering.

FACT: Stress releases hormones that in some cases alter the brain’s metabolism and its ability to function well, leading to psychological injuries (Orange Zone) or illnesses (Red Zone). Bottom line, the effects of stress are real.

MYTH: Talking about stress = weakness.

FACT: Resilience is built by talking about what’s on your mind and getting some straightforward guidance from an OSCAR-trained Marine or a Chaplain or corpsman. The Stress Continuum tells us that a Marine is not either just “good to go” or “broken.” It’s not one or the other. There are a range of stress reactions, and everyone moves in and out of stress zones. Shift the conversation on stress to knowing the facts, working toward the Green by being proactive (strengthening and mitigating), and supporting Marines who get the level of support they need today.  These strategies reduce the risks of acute issues in the future. Getting assistance for stress-related issues early helps to reduce the risks of more serious stress reactions later on.

MYTH: Seeking any kind of help means I’m probably going to have to get out of the Corps. Either way, it will definitely hurt my career.

FACT: Those who voluntarily seek care early are more likely to have improved mental health status than those who wait to seek help or do not seek help at all.** Good states of mental health, being in the Green Zone, supports optimal job performance.

  • Despite the benefits of seeking support early, approximately 40-60% of military personnel who experience mental health problems do not seek mental health services.***

Strength conditioning is necessary for individuals and units in the military to perform challenging missions under difficult conditions.  Similarly, greater resilience can be built by positively working through stressful experiences.  On the other hand, significant harm can result when individuals refuse to admit to themselves or others that they need help.  Think about a health issue that might have been treated easily and quickly in early stages, but becomes more severe and persistent because the issue was left untreated. Without assistance, small problems can become big problems that affect an individual’s health and the unit’s readiness.

If stress symptoms don’t go away and individuals have a need bigger than what an OSCAR team member can help you with, seek out your Chaplain, MFLC, or if available, go to your installation’s Community Counseling Program (CCP). CCP is staffed with independently licensed counselors who can help you reduce your stress symptoms.

 

*Momen, N., Strychacz, C. P., & Viirre, E. (2012). Perceived stigma and barriers to mental health care in Marines attending the Combat Operational Stress Control Program. Military Medicine177(10), 1143-1148.

**Ghahramanlou-Holloway, M., LaCroix, J., Koss, K., Perera, K., Rowan, A., VanSickle, M., ... & Trieu, T. (2018). Outpatient mental health treatment utilization and military career impact in the United States Marine Corps. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health15(4), 828. Rowan, A.B.; Campise, R.L. A multisite study of Air Force outpatient behavioral health treatment-seeking patterns and career impact. Mil. Med. 2006, 171, 1123–1127. Rowan, AB.; Varga, C.M.; Clayton, S.P.; Martin Zona, D.M. Career impacts and referral patterns: Army mental health treatment in the combat theater. Mil. Med. 2014, 179, 973–978.

***Sharp et al. (2015). Stigma as a barrier to seeking health care among military personnel with mental health problems. Epidemiologic Reviews, 37, 144-162.