We Need to Talk About Veteran Mental Health (Military Appreciation Month)
May has officially been deemed Military Appreciation Month- a month dedicated to honoring those who have or are currently serving in the military. The month is full of designated days, like:
- Memorial Day- a day to pause and remember those who have lost their lives while serving
- Military Spouse Appreciation Day- a day to honor the sacrifices made by the spouses of those in the military
- Armed Forces Day- a day dedicated to honoring the men and women currently serving in our military
As we honor those who are currently and have previously served in the military this month, we are granted the perfect opportunity to consider the mental health of our veterans. It is no secret that those who have served in the military may be at higher risk for mental illnesses like:
Veterans and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
This disorder is a mental health condition that occurs when one witnesses a traumatic event, like military combat, assault, or natural disaster. It can significantly negatively impact the affected person’s quality of life, causing issues like sleep struggles, irritability and anger, nightmares, intense fear, anxiety, and substance abuse. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness , those who have served or are currently serving in the military are 15 times more likely to experience PTSD than civilians.
Veterans and Depression
Depression can be caused by many different variables, whether from a person’s genetics or their environment. The mental health disorder is defined as a feeling of sadness, despair, or lack of motivation that does not pass within two weeks. Other symptoms of depression can include changes in one's sleeping or eating patterns, feeling guilty or hopeless, and withdrawing from relationships. According to research by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 1 in 3 Veterans were found to be experiencing some symptoms of depression, with 1 in 5 experiencing serious symptoms.
Veterans and Substance Abuse
Veterans substance abuse is a significant problem faced within the United States military. Substance use disorders can have a significantly negative impact on the person experiencing them, as well as those who love them. A substance use disorder is defined as continuing substance use despite negative consequences. When one is dealing with a substance use disorder, they will likely find that their career, health, happiness, and relationships are all impacted. One study found that, among veterans presenting for first-time care in the VA healthcare system, an estimated 11 percent met the criteria for a substance use disorder diagnosis.
What Can We Do for Our Veteran’s Mental Health?
If you wish to take part in improving mental health care for our veterans, there are a few things you can do. They include:
- Educating yourself. The internet is full of useful resources to help you develop a better understanding of mental health disorders, risk factors for veterans, and the mental health resources available to veterans in your community.
- Volunteer your time. There are a number of organizations with the goal of providing veterans with the mental health resources they need.
- Spread the word about mental health resources in your community. The more aware our veterans are about the resources available to them, the better chance they will have at finding help when they need it.
- If a veteran tells you they are struggling, take it seriously. The Veterans Crisis Line is a crisis hotline available 24/7. They can be reached at 1-800-273-8255.
If you know a veteran in need of counseling, we are here to help. Contact us today, and we will work to get the veteran the mental health help they need.
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