Mental Health problems are widely known amongst the veteran community. Many veterans deal with post-traumatic stress disorder, substance use disorder, depression, and suicidal tendencies. Acclimating to regular life outside of active duty military can sometimes be tough for many veterans, and anxiety along with other problems begin to build rapidly. That combined with behavior attributed to self-medication via alcohol or drugs is a recipe for disaster, and more needs to be done to help veterans that are stuck in this downward spiral.
Recent studies by the VA show that 20 veterans commit suicide each day nationwide. In 2014, more than 7,400 veterans took their lives, accounting for 18% of all suicides in America. What’s even more shocking is that veterans only make up 9% of the overall U.S. population. Researchers found that a veteran has a 21% greater chance to commit suicide than that of a regular adult civilian. This disparity is a very real problem within the veteran community, and the VA has taken steps to help change these disturbing trends.
The VA has hired 5,300 mental health providers and support staff to help with this problem. Suicide prevention lines have also been beefed up as a result.* Another way the VA is attempting to stop this epidemic is by implementing procedures early on to identify a veteran who may have a higher probability of committing suicide in his return to civilian life. Testing is done to see if the veteran is considered “high risk” for suicide and if so, treatment begins before any significant event occurs.
Civilians who may be interested in helping this cause can help by assisting with telephone coaching for families of veterans. Through the VA website, more information can be found on this program and materials can be requested if one has a desire to get more involved.
The biggest thing to keep in mind is the need to be proactive and to catch symptoms early if a veteran has a predisposition to suicidal thoughts or tendencies. If possible, it’s best to recognize and treat the problem, before it turns into something significant. If the problem isn’t caught early enough, it could be extremely detrimental to the veteran patient and correcting their behavior may be almost impossible.
If you are a veteran who is having mental issues or problems, take it upon yourself to seek help. There is no shame in calling the veterans crisis line www.veteranscrisisline.net and talking to someone about what’s on your mind. Sometimes only venting your thoughts and emotions can be incredibly relieving and beneficial.
You also may want to schedule a meeting with a VA counselor if you feel you are having a hard time adapting or adjusting to healthy society. The last thing you want to do is continue to ignore these thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and act as if everything is alright. Seek help immediately; you are not alone, and many veterans like you suffer from the same problems and mental illness.