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raceAhead: A Combat Vet Exits Mayoral Race to Seek Treatment for PTSD

October 3, 2018, 8:08 PM UTC

You don’t have to be a politician to endorse Jason Kander’s message.

The former Army intelligence officer and Afghanistan vet halted his promising campaign for mayor of Kansas City, Mo., for an important reason. He is suffering from depression and has PTSD symptoms.

His post on Medium announcing his decision is unflinchingly honest:

About four months ago, I contacted the VA to get help. It had been about 11 years since I left Afghanistan as an Army Intelligence Officer, and my tour over there still impacted me every day. So many men and women who served our country did so much more than me and were in so much more danger than I was on my four-month tour. I can’t have PTSD, I told myself, because I didn’t earn it.

But, on some level, I knew something was deeply wrong, and that it hadn’t felt that way before my deployment. After 11 years of this, I finally took a step toward dealing with it, but I didn’t step far enough.

I went online and filled out the VA forms, but I left boxes unchecked—too scared to acknowledge my true symptoms. I knew I needed help and yet I still stopped short. I was afraid of the stigma. I was thinking about what it could mean for my political future if someone found out.

And now we know.

I asked Lt. General Nadja West, the 44th U.S. Army Surgeon General and Commanding General of the U.S. Army Medical Command, what she thought of Kander’s post. “I’m convinced it will save lives,” she says. West is an extraordinary person in her own right. She’s the Army’s first black, female, 3-star general, and is currently tasked with transforming the way the military dispenses medical care, now and in the future.

Her own guiding philosophy is simple but profound: “If we can train empathy, we can make almost any change happen.”

Kander’s post was an exercise in empathy training.

“You know people in the military are tough—they hurt themselves they want to rub dirt on it, wrap it in duct tape and keep going,” said West, summing up military culture. But you can’t outrun the invisible wounds of war, she says. Nor, should you want to. “PTSD is real and you can’t handle it without expert help. The only thing that stops people getting the help they need is the stigma.”

Kander’s decision to step out of the race to seek treatment is the best way he can preserve his future, political or otherwise. “It isn’t weakness, it’s strength,” says West.

But his announcement is a necessary reminder that plenty of others may also be suffering, and afraid to seek help. Keep vets and their families top of mind says West. Empathy and support are “thanks from a grateful nation” in action.

On Point

ABC chief Channing Dungey: Roseanne “crossed a line that cannot be crossed”ABC Entertainment Group president Channing Dungey talked about her decision to greenlight the return of the hit show Roseanne, despite the controversial nature of its star. The original idea was to tell “broader stories about a certain part of the country” that was “challenged more economically,” which worked. But after Roseanne Barr’s infamous tweet making a racist joke about Valerie Jarrett, the former adviser to U.S. president Barack Obama, she had to pull the plug. Stars and executives should be able to express their views on social media and in public, she says, but “in this case, unfortunately, that tweet crossed a line.”Fortune

Creating a welcoming workplace culture
Inclusion expert Janice Gassman says that organizations overfocus on recruiting at their peril. Devote energy and resources to creating a welcoming workplace where people feel that they can be themselves, and where they feel seen and valued. She recommends investments in employee resource groups. Well executed, these groups can the basis of a robust D&I network that fosters a sense of belonging. She uses T-Mobile as a case study. “In 2017, retention rates were significantly higher among employees who actively participated in our D&I network," says T-Mobile’s head of diversity and inclusion.

Four people slapped with federal charges for their roles in the Unite The Right Rally
Cole Evan White, Benjamin Drake Daley, Michael Paul Miselis, and Thomas Walter Gillen were arrested and charged with rioting-related charges last August, but the criminal complaint was unsealed this week. All four men are from California, and are members of a violent white supremacist group called Rise Above Movement (RAM). (ProPublica did an investigation into RAM’s largely unpoliced activities last year.) According to the charges, they participated in the torch-bearing and subsequent gathering in the park. The filing states they were “among the most violent individuals present in Charlottesville” last year.
Huffington Post

A new novel skewers Silicon Valley culture
Jessica Powell, the former head of public relations at Google, is the author of a new novel and it sounds amazing. The former gatekeeper left the search giant, earned a masters in creative writing, and has published “The Big Disruption,” which is described in this review as a “zany satire” set inside a tech giant. Do tell! (She says it’s more based on a previous job at Badoo, a European dating start-up.) But what is universally true is the relentless sameness in tech, a cultish monoculture unblemished by outside thought. “I don’t think that everyone has an equal voice,” Ms. Powell told The New York Times. “Even putting aside broader issues around gender diversity, ethnic diversity or class diversity, there’s also an issue around people’s educational backgrounds.” What kind of world when you build when only one type of person gets to build it?
New York Times


The Woke Leader

We’re hiring fewer black college faculty
Despite numerous promises to recruit and retain instructors of color, predominantly white four-year public and private colleges are losing ground. According to federal data analyzed by The Hechinger Report, the proportion of annual faculty hires who are black did not increase in the 10 years ending in 2016. In fact, it fell slightly, from 7% to 6.6%. Currently, the black student population is 12%, with black teachers roughly half that. Fewer than 5% of faculty are Hispanic, compared to 16% of students. And, if the accompanying interviews are any indication, the professors who are hired in are not thriving at predominantly white institutions.
Hechinger Report

Meet 22 U.S. immigrant philanthropists
The Chronicle of Philanthropy has put together a fascinating list of big donors who happen to have been born outside of the U.S. Many are familiar names—Elon Musk, Pierre Omidyar, etc.—but plenty are better known for the businesses they’ve created rather than the causes they care about. India’s Manoj Bhargava made his fortune from the 5-Hour Energy Drink but has devoted his largesse to Billions in Change, which works to improve water and infrastructure in impoverished areas. And some are just wonderful people. Rafat and Zoreen Ansari, who are both physicians and Muslim, gave $15 million to Notre Dame to help the university start a center for the study of global religions. Kieu Hoang, who once served as an interpreter for U.S. forces in Vietnam, gave $5 million each to relief efforts for Hurricane Harvey and the San Jose, Calif., floods. The billionaire founded two blood products companies.

A razor for people who can’t shave themselves
Have you ever tried to shave someone else? It’s harder than it looks. Gillette began testing the Treo in 2017, the first razor that’s designed to help nervous caregivers safely shave someone in their care—typically an elderly person, or someone with disabilities. The handle contains water-based shaving gel and is re-angled to help a shaver more confidently navigate someone else’s face. Click through to learn more about the research, design, and prototyping process, and for a very sweet video of a son who has learned to take care of his elderly father.
Fast Company


They were supposed to be the ones who would help us 18-year-olds to make the transition, who would guide us into adult life, into a world of work, of responsibilities, of civilized behaviour and progress—into the future...Our first experience of heavy artillery fire showed us our mistake, and the view of life that their teaching had given us fell to pieces under that bombardment…But now we were able to distinguish things clearly, all at once our eyes had been opened. And we saw that there was nothing left of their world. Suddenly we found ourselves horribly alone—and we had to come to terms with it alone as well.
Erich Maria Remarque, All Quiet On The Western Front