You will hardly believe it if you go to this site and look at the picture there.

I lack the technological competence to transfer that photo to here, but do stop reading, go to the site, and then come back.

It's far from April's Fools Day, and in any case this is no joke. The Veterans Affairs Department Medical Center apparently has someone running its gift shop that made the choice to stock a hat with a message that mocks the emotional pain of veterans and implicitly suggests that psychiatric drugs are what they need. Granted, the decision was clearly not made by the top brass at the VA and surely not even submitted for their approval. But the body of the person who placed that order must have icewater in place of blood.

Good for outpatient Tom McCuin, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, for spotting it, photographing it, and putting it on Facebook and Twitter. But how appalling that in the place where he seeks help for his suffering, he had to encounter that.

The hat is no longer for sale in the gift shop. But veterans continue to suffer, and mockery is one of the last things they need. Another of the last things they need is the knee-jerk use of psychiatric drugs that, as the VA's own top officials have said in their own press releases and as ample evidence has shown, have hurt far more veterans than they have helped. The VA could take the fine work of two of its doctors, David Collier of the Salem, OR, Vet Center and David Kearney of the Seattle VA, and spread their methods throughout the VA system. Dr. Collier has said (I quote him in my book, When Johnny and Jane Come Marching Home: How All of Us Can Help Veterans) that it is not drugs or fancy techniques that have the greatest power to help veterans heal but love. Dr. Kearney uses the gentle, humane approaches of mindfulness and meditation with suffering veterans and has documented that they help them move toward healing.

First published at

©Copyright 2011 Paula J. Caplan All rights reserved

About the Author

Paula J. Caplan, Ph.D.

Paula J. Caplan, Ph.D., a clinical and research psychologist, is an associate at Harvard University's DuBois Institute and former fellow in Harvard Kennedy School's Women and Public Policy Program.

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