“Back when I served in the navy, I don’t remember hearing about PTSD or anything about mental health because it was considered a disqualification. Because it was considered a pre-existing disease, you couldn’t get in. So if anyone was struggling, they kept it a secret. I do remember a few years into my service, a shipmate shared with me his story about how he had to do a mandatory check-in with a therapist here and there but that was about it. Even though I had to spent months away from loved ones, I feel lucky to be a part of the command that I was in because they became like family. Each ship has a command master chief that is there to ensure the wellbeing of each enlisted person. I felt at ease speaking with him, but I know not everyone has that same experience. If I didn’t have a master chief who was supportive, I think my experience with the navy would have been different and it would have been a struggle.

If I could give one sound piece of advice for anyone’s struggling, just know that no matter what you do in life or where you are at, it is important to have people around you to lean on. In general, the military is doing a better job of addressing mental health issues, but I think a lot more can be done to reduce the stigma. Even though I am still working on it, I am not the best at communicating my feelings; I think being Hispanic and a male has something to do with it because mental health is still very taboo in my family. I wouldn’t say that it is seen as a weakness as much as just not talked about or ever thought of as a solution to get help. Through premarital counseling, I learned a lot about myself and not to hold it all in. I remember I was even quiet during the first few sessions because I didn’t know what to say. I’m still quiet, but I try to tell my younger cousins and nephews that it’s okay to ask for help and share their feelings too.”

-Victor (Tustin, CA)