People who serve in the military and veterans can face unique challenges. There are many emotions involved with being at war, separated from loved ones, as well as the stressors that are inherent in multiple and extended deployments. The stress encountered in service abroad can also play a role in mental health issues, including anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and substance abuse.
In addition to these mental health issues, many soldiers have experienced traumatic brain injury or multiple concussions from combat. The military and their families should have full access to counseling by mental health professionals to help them cope with temporary or permanent losses.
Make the Connction: Shared Experiences
and Support for Veterans
One in five veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars is diagnosed with PTSD. (CBO, 2012)
An estimated 30 percent of Vietnam Veterans has PTSD. www.ptsd.va.gov
Mental disorders are the leading cause of hospitalizations for active-duty forces. (Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center 2012 report.)
The suicide rates of veteran VA users is nearly twice that of the general population. Some 8,000 veterans are thought to die by suicide each year, about 22 per day. (Veterans Affairs, 2012.)
The recent increase in military suicides is the result of untreated mental illness (depression, bipolar disorder) and substance abuse rather than combat experience / number of deployments, according to an August 2013 study in JAMA.
Only 38% of U.S. adults with diagnosable mental illnesses receive needed treatment. With effective treatment, 70-90% of individuals with mental illness achieve an improved quality of life. (mentalhealth.gov)
More than 40 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans responding to a recent survey said they did not seek mental health care because of a perceived negative impact on their careers. (Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Member Survey 2012)
Military service can affect the family also—research has found that adolescent children of military parents have greater emotional and behavioral problems than other adolescents without military parents. (SAMHSA, 2012)
Helping our Troops and their Families at Home
It’s important to remember that the mental health challenges that service members experience can have a ripple effect throughout their immediate family while they are serving and upon their return home.
There are a variety of things military members and spouses can do to understand the warning signs of and treatment options for mental health issues including:
- Talking with someone in their “network of care” (e.g., primary
care physician, religious leader, or friends and family) about
what they are going through.
- Utilizing online resources to learn about common mental health
issues associated with serving in a war zone and their
- Discussing their concerns with a psychiatrist or other mental
health care professional.
The American Psychiatric Foundation is a proud partner of “Give an Hour,” a volunteer organization that provides professional mental health and substance use disorder services through a network of professionals who volunteer their services for an hour a week to active and returning military, National Guard, veterans, and their families.