INSIDER SPEAKS: San Diego Psych Doc Exposes Marine Corps’ Broken Mental Health Care Culture, and How to Fix it

Psychologist Marjorie Morrison landed a job at the Marine Corps’ San Diego recruit training base where she developed mental health preventative care programs for 500 rough and tough drill instructors like Iraq War veteran Staff Sgt. Michael Saldana, pictured above. What Morrison found during her year at the San Diego base was a deeply entrenched culture of stigma that publicly encourages Marines to seek help for psychiatric wounds, yet maintained a secret strict policy of ‘man up.’ In her new book titled, “The Inside Battle: Our Military Mental Health Crisis” Morrison says many of the drill instructors she encountered were just back from multiple combat assignments and struggling with symptoms of PTSD and other mental health woes. She details her frustrations trying to get Marine Corps leaders to adopt a preventative care philosophy that eliminates stigma and provides access for care before incidents of suicide, substance abuse, domestic violence and other problems associated with untreated psychiatric conditions (DoD)

MILITARY MENTAL HEALTH: An Outsider Takes a Peek Inside

by Mark Thompson
Battleland/Time Magazine, Sept. 11, 2012

Marjorie Morrison, San Diego-based psychologist spent a year developing a proactive mental health care program for more than 500 Marine Corps drill instructors and wrote a book about it.

Marjorie Morrison is a San Diego psychologist who took time out of her busy private practice to provide “pro-active” mental-health counseling to more than 500 Marines at the recruit depot there.

Such counseling removes stigma – because everyone gets it, no one feels “different.” It’s designed to prevent mental-health ailments before they begin, instead of trying to fix them after they’ve taken root and disrupted lives.

She details her fight and frustrations with  the military’s mental-health bureaucracy in a new book, The Inside Battle: Our Military Mental Health Crisis.

Morrison believes today’s war-strapped U.S. military needs to make such counseling as much a part of its everyday life as PT and field exercises. But that requires scaling up the military’s mental-health culture into a bigger commitment than it is now.

She recently conducted this email chat with Battleland about her new book, which is being published Tuesday, September 11:

Why did you write “The Inside Battle: Our Military Mental Health Crisis”?

In 2008, I had the unique opportunity to work as a mental health counselor at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego. I decided to take a short leave from my busy private practice at hopes of doing some meaningful work and to give back to my community.

I’d often hear the familiar sad story where someone that needed help didn’t get it, couldn’t find it, or got turned away.

Even if the overt message is “seek help,” the covert message is “you should be strong and man up.”

The stigma is still there and is deeply embedded in the military mindset.

— Marjorie Morrison, San Diego-based psychologist who recently spent a year developing proactive mental health care program for 500 Marine Corps drill instructors and wrote a book about it titled he “Inside Battle: Our Military Mental Health Crisis”

When I first arrived at the Depot, I was placed in the on-base counseling center where I was given administrative tasks and rarely used my clinical skills. I didn’t want to be another example of taxpayers waste and was determined to bring quality services to the Marines.

Through perseverance, some amazing forward thinking Marine leaders, and a little bit of luck, I ultimately created a thriving proactive counseling program. I routinely met with over 500 Drill Instructors in both individual and group sessions.

It was a tremendous experience and I learned so much having had access to that many Marines.

After a year of working closely with them, I gained a deep understanding about what was really going on inside their heads, especially those that have returned from multiple deployments.

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One Response

  1. Loved this book. Made a lot of sense.

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