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This Veteran’s Day, Mental Health Services are More Important than Ever

VetNearly 1 in 4 active duty members show signs of a mental health condition after serving in combat, according to The National Alliance on Mental Illness and a 2014 study in JAMA Psychiatry. Veterans Affairs estimates that 22 veterans commit suicide each day. Our veterans face incredible mental and physical demands on the battle field and it can have deep and lasting impacts when they return stateside to their civilian and family lives.

The trauma of combat can often lead to struggles with drug addiction or substance use disorders, anger and violence at home or work, or reckless behaviors that might even lead to crime.

John Garland, a Monarch licensed clinical psychotherapist and United States Air Force veteran, has worked with veterans for more than 17 years and says that getting our veterans the help they need is one of the most important mental health initiatives for those working in our industry.

“Here in Gaston County, we have 27,000 veteran/active duty/guard and reserves.While I trained for combat, I was never in a known public arena for combat service.  But unfortunately for many of our enlisted and commissioned servicemen and women, that’s not always the case and they need more outside supports.”

Even with good coping skills, trauma induced behaviors and thinking patterns can be very hard for veterans to process and change.
 
Garland said the biggest mental health challenges veterans deal with depends on what era they served. Many Vietnam veterans feel forgotten, those who served in the Gulf Wars are more outspoken about their needs, but many face issues with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), similar to returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Long wait times for mental health services or not knowing where to turn for services, keeps veterans from getting the help they need. Garland also said that many soldiers feel uncomfortable asking for help or advocating for themselves and the services they need.

He explained that returning veterans have to learn new ways of coping as they acclimate to a society that doesn’t always understand what they have been through. But strong family support and learning new coping skills have helped tremendously for the veterans he has worked with, along with long term mental health supports like a therapist or group therapy.

“Veterans need to be talking to someone. Many veterans go overseas, serve valiantly and they come home and they’re fine, but those folks had healthy coping skills on board before they ever took the oath. But unfortunately for many of our enlisted and commissioned servicemen and women, that’s not always the case and they need more outside supports.”  Even with good coping skills, trauma induced behaviors and thinking patterns can be very problematic for families.

He recommended the following supports for veterans and their families:

  • Look in to private practices who have partnered with the VA. They can offer referrals and many, like Garland, have an understanding of the military and how it works, something many veterans are looking for in a support or therapist
  • Military One Source - 24/7 support for the military community
  • Blue Star Mothers of America, Inc. - They are an organization that puts together resources for military families
  • Beyond the Yellow Ribbon - A program that creates awareness for the purpose of connecting service members and their families with community support, training, services and resources

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