Negative media portrayals of veterans seem to be more common. Recent news headlines such as, “Police get help with vets who are ticking bombs” (USA Today, 1/26/12) and Dr. Phil’s recent show “From Heroes to Monsters” promote negative stereotypes of men and women who serve and are offensive and hurtful. As one veteran blogged on Dr. Phil’s website: “As a Veteran with PTSD, I am very glad that you changed the title of the episode. Whoever came up with the original title should be fired. I understand the intent. However, I was and am deeply offended. We have our demons with which to contend. I have dealt with my own demons for almost 30 years. I have asked myself ‘Am I crazy?’, ‘Am I a sociopath?’, ‘What the hell is wrong with me?’. Do you want to know what is wrong with me? Nothing. I am having a normal reaction to an abnormal situation…” (Note: Dr. Phil’s website renamed the episode “Heroes in Pain.”)
Under the leadership of Wilma Townsend, SAMHSA’s Director of Consumer Affairs; LaVerne Miller, Senior Project Associate (PRA), SAMHSA’s GAINS Center for Behavioral Health and Justice Transformation; and Dan Warvi, Peer Representative from the Colorado Jail Diversion and Trauma Recovery – Priority to Veterans (JDTR) site, SAMHSA convened a Media Coverage on Military Veterans Roundtable on June 10 – 11th 2012 in Baltimore, Maryland.
Roundtable attendees included representativesfrom the JDTR sites, staff from SAMHSA’s GAINS Center, family members of military veterans, veteran advocacy organizations, and advocates. Members of the media were involved in the planning of the event but, due to schedule conflicts were unable to attend. Nevertheless, media representatives will remain part of the initiative and will review products developed.
The two-day agenda focused on reviewing examples of both positive and negative media portrayals, identifying core principles in media portrayal of veterans, and developing an outline for a media tool kit. Further updates on the development of the media tool kit will be available on the SAMHSA’s GAINS Center website at http://www.samhsa.gov/gains-center.