A Special Mental Health Resource for Once A Soldier

Mental health continues to be one of the biggest issues facing veterans today. Statistics have shown that a full third of U.S. veterans return from active duty reporting problems with mental health. And the suicide statics for veterans are sobering: 17 U.S. military veterans per day commit suicide, making it the second leading cause of death among post-911 veterans.

There’s another grim statistic, too: despite this, less than 50% of veterans receive mental health support of any kind. One cause of this is mental health services for veterans being severely underfunded and understaffed; although 1 in 10 veterans will return from active duty with some kind of long-term mental health issue like PTSD, there aren’t enough resources or staff to help everyone.

But there’s another reason why veterans aren’t getting all the mental health support they need: many of them don’t seek it out in the first place. In particular, many veterans without close friends or family are unlikely to pursue receiving treatment for mental health issues. Many others aren’t aware they’re eligible for help, or aren’t even aware such help is available.

Reasons Veterans Resist Help with Mental Health

There’s another grim statistic, too: despite this, less than 50% of veterans receive mental health support of any kind. One cause of this is mental health services for veterans being severely underfunded and understaffed; although 1 in 10 veterans will return from active duty with some kind of long-term mental health issue like PTSD, there aren’t enough resources or staff to help everyone.

But there’s another reason why veterans aren’t getting all the mental health support they need: many of them don’t seek it out in the first place. In particular, many veterans without close friends or family are unlikely to pursue receiving treatment for mental health issues. Many others aren’t aware they’re eligible for help, or aren’t even aware such help is available.

So why don’t veterans get the mental health help they need? Let’s look at some of the more common reasons.

They’re trained to “suck it up.” Acknowledging and accepting the presence of mental health problems is already a major obstacle for anyone suffering from mental illness. But the problem can be exacerbated by military training and culture, which encourages soldiers to “bite the bullet” and forge ahead despite hindrances or obstacles. While this attitude can be critical in military situations, it isn’t helpful when dealing with mental health, and may lead to self-medication through drugs or alcohol.

They view it as weakness or fear being minimized. One very common fear among sufferers of mental illness is the thought of confessing their issues to someone (already a stressful and anxiety-inducing experience in itself) and being told that it’s “all in their head” or they just need to “cheer up” or otherwise endure the problem. This can further alienate and isolate the person, possibly exacerbating the mental issues. In particular, veterans may be wary of being open with their problems out of fear for their careers, or, if they’re a single parent, worrying their children might be taken away.

While a certain amount of hesitation is understandable, the armed services are adamant about mental health being just as important as physical health to mission success. The real dangers to one’s military career actually stems from not disclosing their illness or seeking treatment for it. Despite funding and staffing issues, the military still considers it important for soldiers and veterans to take care of their mental health.

They’re unaware of changes in the behavior Denial is an extremely common issue for those suffering from mental illness, no matter what their background. A person may not be aware their outlook or behavior has changed following a trauma or incident. Even once they do realize something is different, they might still deny that it’s an issue. This can lead back to the problems of self-medication, hiding the problem, or going on denying it exists.

They don’t believe therapy is worthwhile. Therapy still has a negative stigma in our popular culture. It’s common for many to feel that therapy is a scam, not useful, or wouldn’t be useful to them in particular due to their personality or circumstances. Resistance to therapy is extremely common, but knowledge of the usefulness of therapy is slowly growing.

They can’t afford mental health services. Even when veterans know where to turn to find resources to help them, those resources may be beyond their financial reach. Insurance will sometimes cover some mental health costs, but rarely all, and some veterans may find themselves feeling they can’t afford it, and don’t know where to turn to get assistance.

Where Veterans Can Turn for Help

Fortunately, while there are ongoing issues with mental health services for veterans getting enough staff and funding, there are still options available for those seeking assistance, including:

  • The local veteran’s affairs department. The VA not only provides instant help in the form of hotlines and online chat, but can also point veterans to resources in their area.
  • Community social services (if they have a nurse or social worker trained in mental health).
  • Non-profit organizations that assist veterans.
  • Private psychologists and therapists. Many insurance companies offer a certain amount of paid sessions for people seeking help from a private practice.
  • Look into joining a veteran’s support group.
  • Groups such as the National Suicide Lifeline offer instant support for people in need.
  • Your religious organization may also be of help to those not wanting to seek out a secular solution. Many pastors, rabbis and imams are trained in social work helping people with mental health issues and can provide aid and guidance.
  • There are even mental health apps available for those who want or need some immediate help.

There are also a variety of other mental health services for veterans seeking help. If you or someone you know is a veteran struggling with mental health issues, consider helping them get in touch with one or more of these resources.

This is a contributed post written by MVU.

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