The Real Warriors Campaign is the Department of Defense's official anti-stigma public awareness campaign. It encourages members of the military and veteran communities to follow through with care for psychological health concerns. Governmental Action Officer Dr. Nick Polizzi explains.

“We are trying to break the stigma associated with that and to increase the education about psychological health,” Polizzi said. “We also want to open doors and promote health seeking among service members, veterans, and their families. Health seeking can mean everything from learning more about depression and what they might mean, or all the way to accessing care resources in your area.”

Captain Cassandra Ross is the Executive Officer for the 120th Air Lift Wing in the Montana Air National Guard. Captain Ross is a 13-year veteran who has experienced positive results in both her professional and home life after seeking care and working through treatment.

“I went to flight school,” Captain Ross said. “When I came home from flight school, there were some really triggering events in training that brought up trauma that happened prior to the military. One of the different things about my story is that my trauma happened in my youth and not in my service. The service enabled me to get the care I needed to move forward.”

Captain Ross says she couldn’t sleep, was having nightmares, didn’t want to go home, and was short tempered and agitated.

“As a C-130 Navigator, I found myself stepping into the plane and I just couldn’t focus,” Captain Ross said. “I couldn’t be present and I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t put other people’s lives at risk. Honestly, it was my shame to admit that I had a struggle. I was ashamed to say that something was bothering me, but I had to put that aside long enough to get treatment so that I didn’t risk someone else’s life and risk the mission.”

Captain Ross told her commanders what she was experiencing and they were supportive in many different ways. Captain Ross says that support gave her the strength to keep moving forward and to get the help she needed. According to Captain Ross, it is critically important to be patient during treatment.

“I wanted one and done,” Captain Ross said. “I wanted to get in there, face it, and move on, but it is no different than healing from a broken leg. You don’t get to choose the timeline it takes to heal. You get to choose the steps you put in place that help you heal. Reaching out and getting care is the first step in the right direction. I recommend that service members don’t compare their story or their struggle to someone else. Own your own situation, own your struggle, and seek care early and often.”

Folks can learn more about this campaign by visiting realwarriors.net.