Post Traumatic Winning hits the 2nd Marine Division; the response is beyond overwhelming

on Wednesday, 31 July 2019.

Major General David J. Furness, USMC, took command of the 2nd Marine Division (2nd MarDiv), headquartered in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, during the first week of August 2018. In his first two months as the CG, the 2nd MarDiv recorded five suicides and 20 to 30 incidents of suicidal ideations/attempts. Gen. Furness asked about causal factors, he asked what was being doing about the problem, and he wasn’t happy with the answers. Historically, military suicide rates have been lower than those rates found in the general population. That started changing about ten years ago. By 2015, suicide was the second leading cause of death in the U.S. military. The Marine Corps has dedicated more resources and senior level attention to suicide prevention than at anytime in its history and yet the problem is increasing.

Gen. Furness didn’t know why all the programs and training the Marine Corps had developed over the years weren’t working; he just knew they weren’t working. He had three choices: continue with the existing programs but work at them harder, continue with present programs and hope they would start to show some return on investment, or try a dramatically different approach.

Gen. Furness knew exactly where to go to find something dramatically different. He called his old friend, Mike “Mac” McNamara, the founder of All Marine Radio and the developer of the Post Traumatic Wining (PTW) concept and said, “Hey buddy, I need your help.”

Tim Lynch, Dave Furness, and Mike McNamara outside the 1st Regimental Combat Team HQ at Camp Dwyer, in Helmand province back in 2010. The three of us served together as instructors at the infantry officer course in the early 90’s.

If you recognize the picture above you have probably read my first post on Post Traumatic Wining last November. That post covered the treasure trove of unique, historically significant, information to be found on the AMR podcast. Mac gleans keen insights during long interviews with his guests who range from the four star to junior enlisted ranks.

It was from those interviews that Mac started to develop the concept of Post Traumatic Winning. When I wrote about it two months ago, Mac was on his first draft. He wasn’t sure how to weaponize it, how to make it accessible to junior military members or to the general public. Post Traumatic Wining isn’t a Marine thing, nor are the problems of suicide and depression. The U.S. Suicide rate has increased 30% since the year 2000.

Men’s suicide rates are still higher than women’s overall, however, and there’s been a troublingly steep increase in suicides of men from age 45 to 64 as well, as so-called ‘deaths of despair’ from drug, alcohol and suicide deaths spike among white, middle-aged menwithout a college degree. The only age group that didn’t experience a rise in suicide rates from 2000-2016 was men over 75 years old, who already had the highest suicide rate of all.

Adding to this alarming trend is the rate of hospitalization for self harm among young women, and the dismal statistics concerning veterans. According to the Office of Suicide Prevention (2016), veterans account for approximately 18% of all adult suicide deaths in the U.S., yet veterans are only 8.5% of the U.S. population.

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This stunning increase hospital admission for young girls can be directly attributed to social media and smart phones. That is why the people who developed social media and smart phones will not let their children anywhere near them. But social media and smart phones are here to stay so how do we handle the mess they are creating?

As Mac refined his concept he realized that PTW was applicable to every American — check that, to everyone, everywhere. PTW is not a Marine thing, nor is it exclusively aimed at combat vets. Mental health professionals started reaching out to him providing not only encouragement but legitimacy as well as access to additional resources. In the article on suicide linked above, the reporters stress: “Truly effective mental healthcare, better access to treatment, lower costs, and reduced stigma could all go a long way toward reducing suicides.” The key is “effective mental healthcare” because the approaches currently in vogue with mental health professionals are clearly not effective.

As Josh Goldberg (more on him below) remarked during one of the All Marine Radio after action podcasts, “…our mental health system is designed to manage and mitigate symptoms of distress not to help you grow and win. What we need to do is to educate people about the possibility of growth (winning) after trauma because that is not a core belief of the mental health profession.”

While Dave worked through the funding issues, Mac finalized his presentations and the team he would bring with him to present the PTW concept. Mac would introduce the concept, retired Marine Gunner (CWO5) Mike Musselman (a regular on All Marnie Radio) would cover why these concepts were important (especially for junior Marines), and Josh Goldberg, the Executive Director of the Boulder Crest Institute for Post-traumatic Growth and co-author of the book Struggle Well; Thriving in the Aftermath of Trauma, would cover how to apply the PTW principals in the Marines’ daily lives.


I’ll end this post with the two goals and eight commandments of PTW and a prediction, which is the same prediction I made in my first post on the topic. You are going to hear more about this program in the future. The Freq Media takes mental health seriously and we are honored to be the first media outlet to cover this remarkable story.