“Heroes in Pain,” Dr. Phil Changes Name


Many of you may have read my  recent article, Dr. Phil Takes Us From “Heroes to Monsters.” The show stated that  veterans suffering from PTSD are damaged goods that can dismantle marriages.

According to a post on Dr. Phil’s official blog, Turning Point, the official name of the show has been changed to “Heroes in Pain.”

First of all I want  to thank you ALL for expressing your concern, and sharing that article and others among your social media outlets, as well as expressing your concerns to the show.

I can speak for myself when I say that while this is great — he has realized what he did, and it does more realistically describe the challenges our returning service members face — I DO NOT think it’s enough to reverse the damage done. In his blog post he acknowledged the fact that he “unintentionally offended” some viewers. That’s a good way to put it. If it were me, I would have used the term “outraged,” but who am I?

In light of recent personal events, there is ONE thing in this whole article that really stood out to me, and it was this:

“The stories our guests shared last week told of the realities of PTSD, and I hope, stressed the need for both awareness and treatment — not only for the veterans reliving the nightmares of what they saw in battle, but for their parents, spouses and children as well.”

There is a huge, huge, huge need for awareness and treatment for PTSD that seemingly not even those trained in the area are able to provide. Whether it’s because they are shorthanded, or because of budget cuts — it doesn’t matter. This country can figure out how to find money to use on millions of other things, is it so hard to find some to help our own.

A prime example of this is my husband. On Monday he was admitted to a VA hospital near us for PTSD related issues that resulted in him expressing the desire to take his own life. Let me just say that for MONTHS this man has been asking to get back into some kind of therapy — so yes, people do fall through the cracks.

The first question the VA ALWAYS asks is, “are you a threat to yourself or others?” Of course this is their way of determining the level of crisis involved, and it’s protocol. The automatic response of MOST people calling, though, is always going to be “no.”  (And from experience when someone says “yes,” to that question,  it is usually then taken to the wrong hands anyway, whether it be law enforcement, or certain psychiatric units that are not equipped to handle combat related PTSD).

It’s hard to ask for help, been there done that, and each time you are turned away, it gets harder and harder to ask for it. We were told by the VA that they WANT for the Veterans to come begging for help, that their system is set up that way intentionally. But now that my husband actually got to the level of saying he wanted to take his own life,  I feel like they are trying to cover their own behinds and acting like they had NOTHING to do with his downward spiral.

It seems like Dr. Phil is doing a similar thing: he knows exactly what to say now to get a majority of those he “offended” to feel like he is doing the right thing by changing the name of the show.

But my feeling is this: If, as stated in the blog post, he TRULY believes that ” it’s critical that those who serve our country and keep us safe receive the best and most comprehensive treatment available,” then he needs to use the power he knows he has to do more, and encourage others to do more.

And if by “the best and most comprehensive treatment available” he means the book, “The PTSD Breakthrough” by Dr. Frank Lawlis, who is according to Dr. Phil one of the leading PTSD experts in the world, then he has some serious work to do. Because if all it took was a book there would be a lot less people needing help.

(If you want to know what the book is about, PLEASE don’t buy itm read this blog by Torrey Shannon first. Torrey is  the wife of a combat wounded veteran, a writer and one heck of an advocate. We both have very similar views about this book.)

What are your thoughts? Does changing the name of the show change the name of the game, or is the team at  Dr. Phil still wrong for not thinking it through in the first place?


Kristle Helmuth is a 26 year-old Army veteran, wife of a wounded warrior, and mother of two children. She is currently working toward her B.S in Communications and digital media. Kristle is the author of Forget The Dog Not The Baby, a blog that shares her personal experiences regarding her husbands injuries in Iraq, and their journey through healing.

About the Author

Kristle Helmuth is a 26 year-old Army veteran, wife of a wounded warrior, and mother of two children. She is currently working toward her B.S in Communications and digital media. Kristle is the author of http://www.forgetthedognotthebaby.com, a blog that chronicles her journey through healing and self-discovery. Kristle has used her broad skill-set to increase awareness of the issues facing our nations wounded heroes, share resources, and provide hope for Military Families. Kristle is always there to offer support, encouraging words, and a kind open heart to all Military Spouses.
  • I am so sorry that your husband is having difficulties. The VA needs a major overhaul in order to deal with things they were designed to. Here’s to hoping it happens and that your husband finds some worthwhile therapies and counseling.
    I think there needs to be a major shoutout to Cassy Chesser and her post at You Served. A Marine wife who started all of this hours after the show was aired. We all owe her and You Served a huge dept of gratitude for bringing this up and framing the argument. http://www.vamortgagecenter.com/blog/2012/04/20/d
    We are all on the same team and we need these institutions and society at large to understand and meet the needs of our vets. Plain and simple. We owe them that.

  • timothy e. hooey

    To Dr phil tim hooey vietnam 71-72 Read TEARS OF A WARRIOR BY, JANET J. SEAHORN,PH.D&E. ANTHONY SEAHORN, MBD .I been liveing with this 40 yr.s PTDS I JUST TURNED 18 WHEN I WAS THERE. THE VA DID A shitly job with me,,,, I was told not to talk about this out side the VA!
    PS: 100%vet that was never let to tell people the real storely how they territ us vietnam vet……..

  • homefrontsix

    I first read about this via Cassy’s post at You Served. I’m glad ‘Dr.’ Phil finally pulled his head out of his dark, stinky place. However, changing the title of the episode does nothing. You can’t polish a turd and he’s exemplified that perfectly.

    I hope your husband is able to get the treatment he needs and deserves.

  • Chris

    Well “Doctor” Phil, kiss my arse!

  • Joseph Diggs Sr

    Dr Phil perhaps is not a “VETERAN” so he is in my opinion oblivious to what and how the “Military” with it’s “Reginmatation” do this do that and to prepare oneself for “COMBAT” this routine itselfs causes one to make an Emediate adjustment and it requires one with sound values and mind to quickley adopt. Dr Phil with his “PHD” have never ever been subjected to this type of Daily Life so Guys give Dr Phil a Break and let’s all use “REVERSE PSYCHOLOGY” on Dr Phil so that he can see the Good in the “VETERANS” GOD BLESS AMERICA AND ALL OF US VETERANS”!!!!!!!!!!

  • Eloy Sanchez

    Dr. Phil must have slept with Jane Fonda.

  • Ken Johnson

    Dr. Phil is a complete idiot. They should take his show off the air and bring him over here to Afghanistan and see how he deals with the daily crap we put up with.

    • Mike

      This is an excellent idea Ken. Let’s get that goofball in full battle rattle and ship him out.

  • Rudy

    Dr. Phil’s comment and thinking is a slap that General Patton gave a PTDS solider in WWII.

  • TomK

    I have lived with this for 40+ years, and am so thankful for the Minneapolis VA. Had it not been for them in 1994 am not sure where I’d be today. No, there is no ‘silver bullet’ to cure this stuff. And the meds are a double edged sword. But at least I have some tools to deal with the bad days and a support network of group members I can call on. This Dr Phil program was so uncalled for. We already feel ostracized by virtue of what we deal with. We don’t need more.

  • Bill

    First of all, let’s be honest here. Dr. Phill, is not a DOCTOR. He has no degree. He has no training. He is an entertainer. He oversees a television show which is entertainment. I am amazed he has any following, and am amazed he is allowed to continue to use Dr. in front of his name. He is a multi millionare that has zero qualifications.

    • Michelle

      actually he does have a PhD in Psychiatry and practiced for 30 years in Texas before he retired and was picked up for his show.

      • Carl C. Kitchens Jr.

        Texas, that explains it. Welcome to the same treatment we received coming back from Vietnam. I was prescribed the drug Keppra by an outside Dr., but did not try it until I was talked into it by a V A M C Doctor. I had a susidal urge that was almost over powering, my wife saved me along with help of one of my combat Marine veteran friends. Once I contacted the Dr. And told him about my reaction to the drug, his first words were ” I did not write that prescription for you.” The V A exacerbates the problems of PTSD for veterans by it’s lack of concern for the health or welfare of our Veterans. They do have great propaganda and ads that gives the general public the impression that the D V A is able and ready to help. Tell a lie often enough and people will believe it.

  • Vietnam Veteran

    I didn’t like Dr Phil before, I like him even less now. I am a Vietnam Combat Veteran with 3 Purple Hearts and can say he does not know what he is talking about when he talks about PTSD making Monsters out of Heroes. It is the War that is the Monster and the Heroes that must rise above and survive. It is being Human in the nightmare of War that helps you keep your sanity and keeps you going to make it back to a more civilized world that you once knew. We come back with the Scars of War, but the worst ones, no one else can see. Time heals all wounds or at least with time, they will not hurt as bad. Dr Phil, find some other way to boost your ratings and leave Veterans alone.

    • Robert Hughes

      You got it right Brother.

  • dokmartin

    what do you expect from that yuppie-scum draft dodger ? “dr.” phil is nothing but a oprah created left wing pile of garbage. notice he has never called the taliban or bin laden a “monster”

  • HGV

    Only combat Vets know how bad it is and how much it changes a person. When we came home from Nam all we got was “GET OVER IT, YOUR NOT THERE ANYMORE, GET ON WITH LIFE'”!

    If it weren’t for the Nam Vets and the “FORGOTTEN WARRIOR PROJECT” by Dr. John. P Wilson at Cleveland State University in 1977 no Combat Vets would ever get help for PTSD.

  • Michelle

    Instead of portraying the community of PTSD soldiers and their families as victims of Dr. Phil and his “ignorant” show, why don’t all of you write him a letter suggesting ways he can accurately portray our Veterans who desperately need REAL help. Yes, he made a mistake, but really, with all the slander and nastiness I see in these comments, I’m embarrassed to be associated with this community right now. Way to handle the situation gracefully.

  • bobs1951

    Insread of apologizing, perhaps “Doctor” Phil should volunteer some time at a VA hospital or even better, the Center for the Intrepid in San Antonio.

  • Robert Hughes

    Dr. Phil is an arrogant over educated no it all. He has no idea what these young men and women go through. He has never served and would not if he could.

  • Robert Hughes

    Meant Know- it- all !

  • James

    I suffer from PTSD, schartenel wounds, heart disease and other aliments do to agent orange exposure in Viet Nam. When I first applied for disablity, about one year after leaving Nam, I was laught out of the Hines (SP) Hospital in Chicago and told there was nothing wrong with me so i went home.
    At home I would still wake up a night trying to fight or just screaming (flash-backs). I finally got help from the DAV in getting the help I needed. They got me to the Va and got me help for my PTSD.This was almost thirty (30) years after leaving the service. I still sufer from PTSD, as there is no cure for PTSD only learning to live with it.
    Now what has Doc.(?) Phil seen in his time in the military, oh wait he never served so has aboslutely know idea what a combat soldier has gone thru.

  • This post really got me. I am a veteran with PTSD, My husband is deployed and we have five daughters. We have had to learn how to live with being a military PTSD family and the stigma attached to it. Shows like this just increase the misunderstanding of the general public about PTSD and it’s effects. Do shows like this acerbate this type of stereotype? Absolutely! I finally had to decide to cut my comment short because it was blog post length. Thank you for the post!

  • I’ve been following this story since you and Cassy hit the airwaves to show vividly the additional damage that media personality is doing. PTS is hard so hard to understand. It hits on so many levels and in so many ways.

    You mention the fallacy of getting answers from a single book. However, there is a book I’d recommend. It is written by someone who has and does struggle. He struggled for years in silence. He wrote his book in 2005 . . and until he did so, there were so many of his peers and those younger than him (myself included) from our small town (pop. 3800 if you stretch it) who never would’ve known that A: he is a veteran who served in Vietnam, and B: that he has suffered years of PTS.

    He makes himself available to veterans and those serving. Perhaps his book or Lee himself can be a helping hand.

    Lee Alley is the Author. Book is called Back from War: Finding Hope and Understanding in Life after Combat

    • Thank you for the suggestion, I will look into this book. I am certainly not opposed to books, especially written by those who know the deal and have been through it.

  • Please access the Nicholas D. Kristoff article from the April 25th edition of the NY Times entitled
    “Veterans and Brain Disease”. Its focus is on CHRONIC TRAUMATIC ENCEPHALOPATHY { CTE } a degenerative condition best known for its delayed damage from athletes like NFL football players and boxers who endure repeated blows to the head. An abnormal form of a protein caused by these concussions accumulates and eventually destroys cells throughout the brain which include the frontal and temporal lobes.
    These are the control areas for regulating impulse control, judgement, multi-tasking, memory and emotions.

  • Boboyup

    Wether or not you believe the title of the show by Dr. Phil was a mistake or not, the most important issue here is that the veterans who need help get what is required in order to recover to become a healthy person again, for themselves and their family.

  • docjones

    As a former Army medicI have seen and done some horrible things as a consequence of combat. I have pushed down my symptoms of PTSD for many years. I am now married with children and it is beginning to show again for me,but I am trying to hold together but I apparently match all the signs and symptoms. I am being encouraged to go to the VA but I have been avoiding this secondary to the stigma and stereotyping associated with it. I am trying to begin my career as a medical professional and am now resisting even more so now to have it officially diagnosed and in my med record. I am worried this will jeopardize my career and my family. I still have the dreams and scream out in my sleep and scare my wife with my “fighting” in my sleep. Talking with fellow Vets seems to help a lot and the so-called experts can’t begin to understand unless they immerse themselves in Vets’daily lives or actually serve in the military. Insensitive comments are verbalized all the time by the unknowing/inexperienced citizens of our great country but villification is not the answer, education is the key to help all involved alike, especially those Vets that are hurting and their families. Vets helping Vets is the answer as all the laws and political rhetoric are fine and dandy when said and written to provide help,jobs,homes ect to our Veterans, but when push comes to shove many companies and inividuals who say they can and will dance end having no desire to do so. Talk the talk but you better walk the walk as well.

  • christie. jaeger

    I am an army wife and also I suffer from PTSD. My husband was in Somalia and suffered from PTSD. I have always had compassion for what he was going thru and helped him cope with it. I THOUGHT! Then I was in a terrible accident and suffered from TBI, a brain bleed, multiple fractures.I was a mess! After a year I could walk and out of all the pain I suffered… The TBI and the PTSD have been by far the worst.I had no concept really of what it was like to have no control over yourself. It took forever to get real help. I told my primary care provider on base many times I could hurt myself. All I got was call One Source !! I couldn’t function I was visibly upset and I didn’t want to just talk to who knows who on the phone. But nothing!! Finally my civilian neurologist. Sent me to a tricare covered psychologist. That took 2 years. She has been a life saver. There is help for this I so want everybody to get the help they so deserve. It is a terrible thing to think your going crazy and nobody gets it. It makes you feel so alone and Any brain injury takes alot. Longer to get over than they say. I just want to help people understand that this is such a killer.

  • Hueysrock

    I likw Jersey Sal’s PCAS description. Our behavior is completely consistent when you consider it as a survival adaptation. I’ve been very lucky. VA has done me right with my PTSD and (with a few pea-brained exceptions) I have no complaints. There is no silver bullet however. You MUST be pro-active and persistent.

  • Caps

    I wish you the best in receiving necessary care for your husband and yourself. Unfortunately, competent care is what is needed. From personal experience, I can attest that a great number of mental health professionals are not competent to treat others. They mean well, but have their own biases, beliefs, and issues that affect their treatment of patients, often causing even more damage –Dr. Phil is a good example. In answer to that question, always asked in intake interviews, and during regular medical appointments, about wanting to harm someone else, “Uh, yeah. I have an overwhelming urge to smack Dr. Phil for using sensationalism in an attempt to build up his ratings, by saying people with PTSD are monsters.”

    When I saw that “teaser” for his show, my reaction was not positive, and although I never watch his show, seeing that made me more sure I wouldn’t watch any of them, that one especially. The primary reason Dr. Phil has his show is not to help anyone; it’s for lining his own pocketbook.

    Unfortunately, once one has PTSD, or something like it, one never “gets over it.” One only learns to cope with the disorder. Degrees of success in coping depend on the individual, his/her background, upbringing, sense of humor, previous outlook on life, and a host of other contributing factors. A strong support system can help make a difference, too. If one hasn’t already been done, perhaps someone might study how an individual’s pre-trauma life-outlook affects how s/he copes with post-trauma issues. Does a previously-known pessimist cope better than an previously-known optimist?

    I believe society, as a whole, plays the strongest role in helping a person cope with life-changing incidents. (I don’t believe using the word “recover” is accurate.) Instead of shunning an individual for having a mental health issue, if friends and coworkers educate themselves, and then ask “what can I do to help?” (not help as a therapist, but as a coping and support mechanism) the individual might have a better chance of turning his/her life back around.

    Trying to put oneself in another’s shoes can help a lot in understanding why a person is acting the way s/he does, and understanding can go a long way in helping another person deal with the things s/he has seen, experienced. It’s still not enough. The best ones to help a person cope with a disorder like PTSD are others who have been through it. They are the ones who truly understand.

    How does it help to take someone our government sent into a war zone maybe once, maybe 3, 4, 5, or 10 times even, then send them back into society and expect this person to function “normally?” The person is taken from his/her familiar environment, sent to a military indoctrination center (basic, boot, whatever one wants to call it, that’s still what it is) for a period of weeks, or months, followed by another period of time being indoctrinated. All his/her rights are stripped from him/her, and informed about the Uniform Code of Military Justice. (Ever question the chain of command? They have an article for that!) The individual is “brainwashed” into the military mindset during all this time.

    Those who choose to stay home and attend college, or enter into the job market have a relatively natural progression into change; they can question authority, and/or they can quit at any time. Those joining the military have to begin growing up immediately; they can’t question the chain-of-command, even if they want to. There’s that big military bible, and the threat of Leavenworth hanging from the rafters of their minds.

    To start the recovery process, instead of just releasing military members immediately, the government needs to create a low-key, de-indoctrination process. Let our service members decompress from their military experiences. They’ll be among others who understand, ones who can help them learn to cope better than anyone else can. Talking to someone who understands, and can relate to what one has experienced, can go a very long way in aiding healing. These de-indoctrination centers can be staffed by veterans who’ve had the same experiences, and the process can be guided by mental health professionals whose only roles are to work as facilitators, and who are to intervene only in extreme cases.

    These decompression centers could have housing available for families of those who have had the toughest time with recovery. The military members and their families can begin to grow back into a cohesive unit. They could start with spending time together, not trying to immediately jump back into their previous life. Although returning to one’s former lifestyle is desired by all, the reality is that everyone had changed. Take time to get to know each other again, take time to learn to be a partnership again.

    By declassification centers, I’m not talking about those cold, cinderblock government buildings we all associate with the military. I’m talking about a warm, comfortable environment, the kind of environment one might visualize when thinking about ski lodges, or family camps: water, hiking, bird-watching, fall asleep under the trees, ride a horse, pet the retired service dog for as long as we both want, bond and take care of the animals, omg-there’s something-besides-sand-and-I-don’t-hear-gunshots/bombs-and-there’s-no-one-shooting-at-me, snowmobiling, skiing, skating, sledding, snowball fights. Sorry, but one would have to leave eventually.

    Why not a great vacation environment after having lived with war for so long? Money? Well, there are private donors, and compared to how much that might be saved on mental health issues, in the long run, these might actually be cheaper. Plus, after everything our service members have endured, should cost even be an issue?

  • rich

    Dr. Phil is a pro in his field. Changing the tital does not change the original statement or it’s meaning.

    A rose by any other name still stinks the same.

  • Spikeygrrl

    I couldn’t care less what the title of the show was before or is now! Dr. Phil did a great job educating the civilian population on the nightmares of PTSD. My husband the medical NCO totally agrees, and that’s a high compliment from him since he is 1) planning to go into this treatment field when he finishes his 20, and 2) usually highly skeptical of “pop psychology.”

    What’s more important, a little iffy nomenclature or actually raising civilian awareness in service of getting more real help for this crippling condition to all members of the military community who truly need it?

  • Sue McKee

    The name of Dr. Phil’s show does not matter, it’s the content of subject matter that I support. No, he doesn’t understand, and hopefully never has to experience, the horrors of a “Police Action”. Now, how about that for a choice of title? Doctor Phil is not the cause of PTSD and his 1 hour show is not going to cure it, but he is calling attention to the problem and could conceivably be the catalyst to kicking the VA in the ass to get the help desparately needed. Dr. Phil is not the person you’re angry with at all. We all know who is screwing us……you can start at the top and work down the chain. Continue to contact Dr. Phil and all the Dr. Phils out there to continue TV programs and other media to put more pressure on the VA for the help so desparately needed by many more than just yourself. No matter if is PTSD or Agent Orange, keep fighting for your rights, but fight for the cause, not the TV host’s choice of words. Oh, yes I am a female Veteran. I’m hoping Dr. Phil has a program addressing the PTSD of the women in the Military face, and I don’t care what he calls the program.

  • Charles Ringling

    I am a disabled veteran who served 14 years 3 months. After the military found me to disabled to serve, or walk again, i was handed over to the VA. Even though the slightest jarring of my left ankle felt like it was being ripped apart i was never given any pain treatment other than ibuprofen or any type of protective brace. I did get a stretchie brace which was painful to wear. I was constantly told there was no treatment or help to regain my walking ability for 3 years but after independent study and 5 years of sports medicine theory i walk fine with little pain. Now i have a autoimmune condition and have been going to the VA for treatment, for 6 years, it took 6 years to get about 20 appointments. first with phych to see if it was in my head, then test-wait 4 months to see doctor for results- order next test, Ect. sometimes i am real bad and go to emergency and get told ‘we can’t do anything for you, your seeing a doctor about it so why don’t you just wait for him to diagnose you’. I almost died 2 times now and on my own i have found that it food reactive and on my own i am doing food avoidance treatment. The VA has never, even once been able to diagnose anything for me, or treat me, for my serious life changing disabilities or illnesses. It is no wonder that every time I wait an average of 10 hours to be treated in emergency i hear code blue’s and say a prayer for the veteran dying in the most inept heath care system in america. God bless and help all who served, because your country won’t.