Supporting Veterans Mental Health
May is national military appreciation month and a perfect time to discuss the mental health of those that have served in our armed forces. There are over 23 million veterans in the United States, about 3 million of these veterans have served in the War on Terror. This 17 year war in Iraq and Afghanistan has been different than any other war our Nation has experienced. Military personnel often participate in multiple tours with longer deployment periods and less time at home. These factors contribute to higher stresses and, as a result, there is a higher number of veterans returning home with mental illnesses and/or struggling with substance abuse.
The three most common mental illnesses experienced by returning service men and women are post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and traumatic brain injury (TBI). The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration says that approximately 18.5% of service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have PTSD or depression, and 19.5% report experiencing a TBI during deployment. Additionally, the suicide rate of veterans continues to increase with a 22% higher rate than adults who did not serve in the military.
How can we support the mental health of our men and women returning from war?
Currently, many factors discourage veterans in seeking out counseling and therapy. Those factors include lack of social support, distance, and fear of revealing mental health issues. For those that do seek out support, many of the VA clinics are short-staffed and hard to access. Therefore, leaving the veteran on a waitlist and feeling frustrated. In rural areas this is even more difficult as it is even harder for the VA to find and keep qualified professionals in the hospitals and clinics.
Local resources such as FamilyMeans Counseling & Therapy and The Center for Grief & Loss support those that have served in our military and their families. Individual, couple, and family counseling sessions can help veterans and their families work through the stresses that come with war and returning home. Contact FamilyMeans at 651-439-4840 to learn more.