The Cable

Certificates of recognition can reduce stress, State Department report suggests

The State Department is moving to improve how it handles mental health services for employees coming back from high-stress or high-threat postings, but there’s still a lot of stigma attached to seeking this kind of help and the department needs to do more, according to a new internal report. "Employees believe there is still a ...

The State Department is moving to improve how it handles mental health services for employees coming back from high-stress or high-threat postings, but there’s still a lot of stigma attached to seeking this kind of help and the department needs to do more, according to a new internal report.

"Employees believe there is still a significant stigma attached to seeking mental health assistance," the State Department Office of Inspector General said in a new report released Tuesday. The OIG called on State to remove the stigma by issuing a high-level statement encouraging returning diplomats to use the mental health tools at their disposal.

State has been ramping up its efforts, including creating a Deployment Stress Management Program (DSMP) in the Office of Medical Services (MED) and increasing the number of mental health-care professionals at the ready. There is also a consultation and interview process called an High Stress Assignment Outbrief for when Foreign Service officers get back from the field, but less than 60 percent of those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan go through it and for other high-stress postings, the usage rate is much lower.

There are also more social workers and psychiatrists than ever at the embassies in Baghdad and Kabul, but according to the OIG it’s unclear whether there are enough. One recommendation was to survey the warzone to see if diplomats’ mental needs are being taken care of.

Sometimes, simply letting officers know their time in the warzone was appreciated can go a long way, according to the OIG.

"Some returnees felt a lack of recognition for their service," the report stated. "The Department could consider such steps as certi?cates of recognition from the Secretary or more meetings between returnees and senior of?cials at the Department and posts."

There are about 800 State Department employees currently deployed in high-stress or high-threat environments, according to the report.

 Twitter: @joshrogin

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