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According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, approximately 17 veterans take their own life every day. The suicide rate for veterans is 1.5 times the rate for non-veteran adults, after adjusting for population differences in age and sex. Though our country celebrates and honors veterans, there isn’t always enough done to address the unique mental health issues and traumas affecting this community. Here’s some information on the various mental health issues that veterans face, along with some important resources.
Veterans: Mental Health Issues
Veterans are at-risk for committing suicide due to the severity of service-based traumas and a shortage of help available. Some of the serious mental health issues that veterans face includes:
· Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Traumatic service-based events can have long-lasting effects after that person has left the service. The results are symptoms such as difficulty sleeping, excitability, jumpiness, nightmares, anger, or substance abuse.
· Substance Abuse
Memories of service-based traumas make it difficult to cope back at home. Many veterans seek alcohol or drugs to deal with painful memories, anxiety, and depression.
· Integration Challenges
Going from a high-stress, survival-based environment to everyday, normal life can be overwhelming for many, especially for those who were in the service for long periods. Veterans may struggle to find a job, go to social functions, or integrate back into normal life.
· Traumatic Brain Injury
A traumatic brain injury is a result of a blow to the head or body during service. Symptoms can include headaches, fatigue, drowsiness, memory problems, and severe mood swings.
Veterans: Barriers to Treatment
Many active duty service members and veterans face a variety of barriers to receiving treatment. Some of these include:
· Personal embarrassment about service-related mental health issues
· Long wait-times at the Department of Veterans Affairs health centers
· Fear of being perceived as “weak”
· Logistical problems, such as long travel distances to receive mental health care
· Inefficiencies in treatment offered through VA
· The stigma associated with mental health issues
Veterans: Tips for Maintaining a Healthy Mind & Body
· Reach out to other veterans or veterans’ support groups
· Talk to friends and family about your experience
· Prepare ahead of time for insensitive questions or topics of conversation. Realize that it isn’t personal.
· Seek out mental health resources (see below).
· Take time to reconnect with family and friends
· Be patient with yourself
· Exercise and eat right to incorporate structure and build confidence
· Get help immediately if you feel suicidal or are experiencing severe depression
Veterans: Resources for Help
Some resources include:
A website that encourages help-seeking behavior among service members, veterans, and military families coping with service-based trauma. Offers 24/7 help and resources to seek care.
A website that offers resources and information about psychological health and traumatic brain injury-related issues. After Deployment also provides self-care solutions pertaining to depression, anger, relationship concerns, and sleep issues.
Offers crisis prevention and 24/7 help to veterans who are considering suicide. Contact 800-273-8255 ext. 1 or text 838255 to be connected to a counselor. This line is also helpful for those who have loved ones in the military, or for those who are living with/know a veteran.
The VA has specially trained suicide prevention coordinators available across the country to help veterans receive the counseling and services that they need. Visit their website to get more information on the benefits that the VA has to offer.
Lifeline for Vets offers vet-to-vet assistance. Contact 888-777-4433 or visit their website to get in touch with a vet who can help. They also offer a variety of other resources and job openings to help get veterans back on their feet.
Stop Soldier Suicide is a team of veteran lifesavers who fight to stop the military and veteran suicide crisis. Contact 844-889-5610 to talk to a counselor. Stop Soldier Suicide offers mental health support, alternative therapies, resources and referrals, and education and training on veterans’ mental health issues.
Alcoholics Anonymous and affiliates such as Narcotics Anonymous can help those struggling with alcohol or drug addiction issues. Please go online to find a local chapter or online meeting.
Do you struggle with depression, anxiety, or trauma? If so, please contact Straight Talk Counseling at 714-828-2000 or visit our website at straighttalkcounseling.org. One of our professional counselors would be happy to speak with you.