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COL(R) Robert D. Forsten, DO--Inside Military Medicine: Mental Health Challenges and Solutions

In a recent episode of the WarDocs podcast, retired Army Colonel Dr. Robert D. Forsten shared his insights on Military Medicine and mental health, drawing from his 26 years of experience as an Army psychiatrist. Throughout the conversation, Dr. Forsten highlighted the importance of mentorship and relationships in the military and medicine.



Dr. Forsten's journey into the military and medicine was a result of chance meetings and the guidance of mentors throughout his life. His passion for biology eventually led him to medical school, and he later chose Psychiatry as his specialty. Dr. Forsten's career in the Army has exposed him to a wide range of experiences, from serving as the First Cavalry Division Psychiatrist during the time of 9/11 to working with the Special Operations community.


One of the significant challenges Military Psychiatrists face is the stigma surrounding mental health in the Special Operations community. Building trust with Service Members is crucial, as is understanding the unique issues faced by those deployed in combat operations. Dr. Forsten shared examples of how his psychiatric expertise was essential during his time in Iraq, particularly in dealing with the psychological effects of extended deployment on military personnel.


The spike in suicides after the realization that soldiers were being deployed for a year was a significant concern. Dr. Forsten emphasizes the importance of the cohesiveness of military units in mitigating the psychological effects of deployment. Setting up a "psych tent" served as a way to help soldiers cope with stress and return to their units whenever possible. The importance of psychological testing at the recruitment stage was also discussed as a way to identify potential issues and provide support to soldiers.



Transitioning from the military to civilian life can be a difficult process for many Service Members. Dr. Forsten shared his own struggles with the transition and highlighted the unique challenges faced by Military Psychiatrists in their careers. The conversation also touched upon the emerging concepts of ‘Operator Syndrome’ and 'Post-enablement Distress Syndrome,' both of which can affect Service Members.


Dr. Forsten's experiences and research provide valuable insights into the world of Military Medicine and the lasting impact it has on those who serve. In addition to highlighting the importance of understanding and addressing mental health issues in the military, the conversation emphasizes the need for support and resources for Service Members as they navigate the challenges of military life and transition to civilian life.


In conclusion, the conversation with Dr. Robert D. Forsten sheds light on the complexities of Military Medicine and mental health. It underscores the importance of understanding the unique challenges faced by Service Members, fostering trust, and providing the necessary support and resources to help them cope with the psychological effects of their service. As Military Medicine continues to evolve, insights from experts like Dr. Forsten will be crucial in shaping the future of the field and providing the best possible care for those who serve.


The interview with Dr. Forsten is available on all major podcast platforms. Here are some popular links that will bring you directly to the episode:



Honoring the Legacy and Preserving the History of Military Medicine


WarDocs- The Military Medicine Podcast is a Non-Profit, Tax-exempt-501(c)(3) Veteran Run Organization. All donations are tax-deductible and go to honoring and preserving the history, experiences, successes, and lessons learned in military medicine.

Our mission is to Honor the legacy, preserve the oral history, and showcase career opportunities, unique expeditionary experiences, and achievements of Military Medicine. Foster patriotism and pride in Who we are, What we do, and, most importantly, How we serve Our Patients, the DoD, and Our Nation.


WARDOCS documents the experiences, contributions, and innovations of all military medicine Services, ranks, and Corps (affectionately called "Doc"—an earned title of respect, trust, and confidence) who are dedicated to the medical care of our fellow comrades-in-arms (both on and off the battlefield), our Wounded Warriors and our military Families.


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