Members of the military provide invaluable services, protecting their country and citizens, providing aid in times of emergency, and much more. They face unimaginable adversity and overcome continuous complicated challenges. And, those who are now veterans, continue to experience obstacles when it comes to mental and behavioral health.
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), of the upwards of two million Americans deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade, increasing members of the military are returning home with complex mental and behavioral challenges.
Veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), serve as examples to reflect the growing concerns of what has become a crisis in veterans’ mental health. The number of veterans with symptoms of mental health or cognitive problems, traumatic brain injury (TBI), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are rising. Additionally, there is mounting evidence of growth in suicide and suicidal ideation among veterans, service members, and their families.
In 2018, The Department of Defense (DOD) reported that 325 active-duty soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines died by suicide. This was 40 more than the prior year, and the highest number since the DOD began collecting suicide data in 2001. And, an estimated 17 U.S. veterans die by suicide every day—a rate 1.5 times greater than nonveterans (after adjusting for differences in age and sex), as referenced by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
The VA also reported that between 11% and 20% of military personnel who served in Iraq and Afghanistan experience PTSD. Of returning OEF and OIF service members affected with TBI, the prevalence ranged from 19.5% to 22.8% percent.
These sobering statistics beg the question: What has led to the current veteran mental health crisis?
One of the biggest obstacles for service members returning home has been insufficient access to appropriate mental health support.
At Futures Recovery Healthcare we understand the unique challenges faced by veterans. Our Hero’s Ascent track offers safe, non-judgmental mental health and substance abuse treatment to address a wide range of disorders including PTSD, depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, and more.
If you are a service member, veteran, or family member of a veteran, there is hope! We can help you develop and establish a journey of healing and a life worth living.
Potential Indications of Mental Disorders in Veterans
Three of the top current increasing mental health concerns among active military personnel and veterans include PTSD, TBI, and suicidal ideation (and suicide). While symptoms of these disorders vary depending on the individual and their specific circumstances, common signs and symptoms include:
- Re-experiencing Traumatic Situations
- Fear similar to the original magnitude during the trauma event
- Flashbacks (feeling as though you are “re-living” the actual event)
- Triggers such as smells, sounds, or visions of something that causes you to relive the event
- Avoiding Certain (Triggering) Scenarios
- Staying away from crowds that remind you of the danger experienced from the traumatic event
- Abstaining from movies or TV shows that mimic or resemble the traumatic event
- Remaining constantly busy to avoid having to discuss or think about the trauma
- Changing Perspectives Due to Trauma
- Feeling negative toward people, belief systems, or situations that you used to think positively about
- Forgetting about aspects of the traumatic event
- Mistrusting the world and people around you
- Feeling Hyper-Aroused (or “Keyed Up”)
- Making sleeping difficult
- Leading to problems with concentration
- Causing you to become startled by loud noises
- Having to have your back to a wall when in public spaces
- Difficulty sleeping
- Appearing agitated, anxious, depressed, and sad the majority of the time
- Isolating from friends, family, and social situations
- Experiencing problems with sleep (either constantly sleeping or hardly sleeping)
- Losing interest in things that used to be important and enjoyable (friends, family, jobs, hobbies)
- Feeling excessively guilty, shameful, regretful, trapped, or as if life has no meaning
- Letting go of personal hygiene and self-care
- Performing poorly at work or school
- Acting aggressively (or engaging in risky behaviors)
- Giving away personal and sentimental items
One study revealed that military personnel diagnosed with TBI were 2.45 times more likely to die by suicide compared to those without a TBI diagnosis. If you or someone you care for exhibits any of the signs and symptoms above, it’s vital to seek professional help immediately.
Importance of Seeking Specialized Mental Health Support
Because of the complexity, trauma, and intricacies specific to veterans, it is crucial that mental and behavioral health support is provided from specialty, highly-trained clinicians. These highly-trained mental health professionals should be skilled in providing evidence-based, patient-centered practices. They may operate out of primary care facilities, mental health support systems, VA medical centers, community health centers, hospitals, and schools.
Mental health support provided for veterans should include comprehensive services, which include:
- Assessment and screening
- Precision diagnosis
As important as mental health support is for active military members and veterans, there are also significant barriers.
Barriers to Veterans Seeking Mental Health Support
Lack of accessible and appropriate mental health treatment isn’t the only barrier keeping active service members and military veterans from reaching out for help. According to the VA, additional barriers include:
- Embarrassment about mental disorders (especially those associated with service-related trauma, such as PTSD)
- Shame for needing mental health support and treatment
- Stigmas associated with mental health treatment
- Concern regarding the value of treatment offered
- Uncertainty about logistics (where to receive treatment related to work/home)
- Fear of being viewed as weak
- Apprehension related to waiting times for receiving mental health assistance
To help alleviate these barriers and others, psychologists across the nation—within the DOD and VA, and out—are uniting to further research. Part of their focus centers on improved understanding of active military and veteran suicide prevention and improved interventions.
In October of 2018, the VA initiated screening for the risk of suicide in all primary-care settings. Research over the past decade has also yielded that cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and additional evidence-based interventions can reduce suicidal thoughts and behaviors of at-risk veterans.
Specialty Support for Veterans
If you are an active service member, veteran, or family member of a veteran, it’s important to seek mental health treatment and support that provides evidence-based therapies and comprehensive and compassionate care. Diagnosis and treatment should be provided by licensed professionals who are highly-trained and skilled in helping veterans.
You are not alone! There is hope for healing and living fulfilling lives.
Futures Recovery Healthcare Hero’s Ascent First Responder’s program offers a safe and non-judgmental environment for males and females 18 and over struggling with mental health disorders. Here, we address Depressive Disorders, Anxiety Disorders, Personality Disorders, Bipolar and Related Disorders by using clinical, medical, and psychiatric interventions and support. Our interdisciplinary team approach allows patients to receive holistic services and care. Our goal is to help develop and establish a journey of healing and a life worth living.
If you are ready to get help and begin a life in peace and joy, Futures is here for you. Contact us confidentially online or by phone at 866-804-2098.