ARLINGTON, Va., Nov. 24, 2010 — Army National Guard soldiers who faced mental health issues in the past may have been hesitant to ask for help, because of a fear of being stigmatized or not being promoted.
However, soldiers in the Army National Guard now must adopt the “New Norm” policy, which makes asking for assistance a priority, Command Sgt. Maj. Richard Burch, the command sergeant major of the Army National Guard, said in a memorandum to first-line leaders dated Nov. 19.
“The ‘New Norm’ is the expectation that our soldiers, families and employers speak up and ask for assistance when they face a challenge that they cannot resolve themselves,” he said. The policy, Burch said, seeks to counteract negative stereotypes that some may have toward those who seek help.
“The failure to seek or provide assistance is unacceptable,” he said. “Seeking and providing it is what we expect and encourage.” Burch likened it to having a flat tire on the highway. While most are able to change the flat tire for the spare tire on their own, he said, that is a temporary solution. To fix the flat tire itself, the help of a professional is needed, he said.
“Very few are able to fix the flat tire without assistance from a professional, the service department employee trained to patch and repair flat tires,” Burch said. “It is not a sign of weakness [to ask for that help]. We should know our limitations and seek assistance when we have exceeded our abilities.” Burch also encouraged soldiers to use the Buddy-to-Buddy or Peer-to-Peer programs in addition to professional services.
The goal is that soldiers ask for help rather than to try and work through problems on their own. “When reaching out to a buddy or peer and seeking out the professionals becomes the norm, we can proclaim success,” Burch said. “The ultimate goal is to find an acceptable solution before an issue becomes a problem.”
Burch said the “New Norm” policy also ties in directly with the Army’s Warrior Ethos of mission first, never quitting or accepting defeat, and helping other warriors when they need it.
Embracing the policy as part of the Warrior Ethos, he said, is one of the ways leaders can ensure the “New Norm” becomes just that. “We must establish that not seeking help is a behavior that is unacceptable,” Burch said. “We value each member of the [team] too much to leave them stranded beside the road. Most of all, we will not tolerate any mistreatment of those who seek help. The Warrior Ethos demonstrates every facet of this expectation.”
As more leaders engage with and know those under their command, Burch said, the better prepared the entire team will be to provide help if needed.
“We expect all [leaders] … to be engaged in knowing their team, reaching out to the team, helping when we can, and guiding each other to the professionals that are available through the resources available in our network of providers,” he said.
And that, Burch said, starts with the Army Guard’s senior leadership.
The leadership of Army Guard soldiers, their families and employers “is committed to moving forward with this expectation as the ‘New Norm,’ ” he said.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)