Director of The Wellness Center
Serve Those Who Serve Us Well
Today our nation pauses in honor of our Veterans. These are the heroes of our country who are willing to risk it all for us, and in many ways, we fall short of supporting them. According to the RAND Center for Military Health Policy Research, 20% of the vets who served in either Iraq or Afghanistan suffer from either major depression or post-traumatic stress disorder and 19.5 percent of vets in these two categories have experienced a traumatic brain injury. According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, (USGAO) 2.1 million Veterans received mental health treatment from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in the five-year period from 2006 through 2010. A study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration exposed that only 50% of returning Veterans are receiving the mental health care they need.
If you are asking yourself why or how our Veterans are missing out on the services they need, the National Veterans Foundation has compiled this list of reasons why both our active-duty service members and Veterans face barriers to treatment for mental health issues. This list includes:
- Personal embarrassment about service-related mental disabilities
- Long wait times to receive mental health treatment
- Shame over needing to seek mental health treatment
- Fear of being seen as weak
- Stigma associated with mental health issues
- A lack of understanding or lack of awareness about mental health problems and treatment options
- Logistical problems, such as long travel distances in order to receive this type of care
- Concerns over the Veteran mental health treatment offered by the VA
- Demographic barriers and false perceptions based on these demographics such as age or gender
While many Americans can relate to these issues, it’s even more devastating to think of our Veterans and their selfless service while being stricken in this way. In addition to this, the inability to get or seek the care they need can inevitably lead to substance abuse. The National Institute of Drug Abuse reports that substance abuse among Veterans is strongly related to their exposure to combat. One study by the organization showed that 25% of returning Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans showed signs of substance abuse disorder.
While this information is upsetting, we must ask ourselves how we can help. While no friend, family member or coworker can replace the expertise of medical and psychological professionals, we can all offer one thing: Support!
What does support look like? It looks like:
Listening. Saying, “I believe you.” Offering a ride. Offering a meal. Shoveling a driveway. Donating your time to local Veterans events such as fundraisers and community meals matters. Making donations to Veteran support groups matters. Asking a Veteran to share a story. Thanking a Veteran. Not parking in the Veteran parking. Sending notes to our military and military retirement homes. Offer to run errands. Offer to go for a walk. Offer to watch a movie. Be a reference for a job opening. Drop off a movie and snacks. Connect a Veteran to local agencies. Reach out to local agencies so they are aware of Veterans. Do yard work or tasks. Bring their pet to the Vet. Help them find a pet. Babysit. Donate to help end Veteran homelessness. Donate a gas card. Donate calling cards. Be a reference for housing. Be Kind. Hold Doors. Thank a Veteran in front of your children and explain why it matters. And the list goes on and on!
Long story short, we want to encourage you to do more than wear a poppy today. Donations to Veteran’s organizations can make a huge difference. Food and supply donations can help too! Support the Veterans you know, offer a lending ear, offer a ride, and check in on them. Make sure your Veteran neighbors have food and heat, and if they don’t help connect them to support. Thank the Veterans around you and make it known that they matter. We can’t end the mental health issues that face our Veterans overnight, but each day we can do our part to support them, trust them and build them up. Our Veterans matter so much more than we can ever show them – let’s make it our mission to support our Veterans better and better each and every day! Let’s serve those who serve(d) us well! Thank you to all our Veterans!
Director of The Wellness Center