For many veterans, transitioning back into civilian life after their time in the service can be a difficult task. From finding housing to adjusting to a normal nine-to-five job, veterans face a number of challenges that may seem like a part of everyday living for civilians. However, they can be especially challenging for anyone who is used to the rigors of military life. For the 20 percent of veterans who have a mental health condition as a result of their service, adjusting to civilian life can be even more difficult.
The connection between veterans and mental health problems has been well-established for decades. Without proper treatment for their symptoms, veterans are more likely to struggle in civilian life. They are also more likely to turn to substance abuse in order to manage the symptoms of mental illness. Sunrise Veterans specializes in mental health services for veterans. We give veterans the treatment they need to help them to be successful in every part of their lives.
Veterans and Barriers to Mental Health Treatment
Research has shown that 20 percent of the men and women who served in Afghanistan or Iraq suffer from PTSD or major depression. Of this group, nearly 20 percent also suffer from a traumatic brain injury, or TBI. However, only about half of the veterans who need mental health treatment actually seek out support for their symptoms. When it comes to veterans and mental health, there are many barriers that prevent former service members from seeking the care that they need. The most commonly cited reasons include:
- A feeling of shame or embarrassment for needing mental health treatment.
- Long wait times to see a provider at VA facilities.
- Fears about being perceived as “weak.”
- The societal stigma that still surrounds mental health issues.
- A lack of awareness about the availability of treatment options.
- An inability to get to VA facilities for appointments.
- Concern over the quality of care offered at their local VA facility.
The Link Between Veteran Mental Health and Substance Abuse
One of the most important things to take into consideration about veterans and mental health is the additional issue of addiction. Veterans with mental health issues are nearly twice as likely as their peers to develop an addiction to drugs or alcohol. Many veterans turn to substance abuse as a way to cope with their mental health symptoms rather than seeking professional help.
Those who have been in combat situations or have experienced other types of trauma are also more likely to become addicted to drugs or alcohol. One study conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that 25 percent of veterans who spent time in Afghanistan or Iraq showed signs of substance abuse post-service. Another NIDA study found that veterans were twice as likely as non-veterans to abuse prescription medications or alcohol. Unfortunately, alcohol or drug use can exacerbate mental illness symptoms and perpetuate the cycle of addiction.
Veterans and PTSD
Another factor that influences the mental health of our veterans is post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. This condition is the result of emotional, mental, or physical trauma that is sustained during service. Trauma can result from being involved in combat, military sexual trauma, and even as a side effect of a TBI. Because the onset of PTSD symptoms can be delayed, many service members have already left the military by the time they realize that they may be suffering from this condition.
PTSD can have a profound effect on a veteran’s quality of life. With symptoms ranging from flashbacks to depression, to thoughts of self-harm, it is a very serious concern for the long-term well-being of our veterans. Without proper care and treatment, more than 20 percent of PTSD sufferers will attempt suicide. Sadly, far too many are successful in their attempts, underscoring the importance and urgency to get veterans the right help.
Signs of Mental Health Issues in Veterans
Not every person who serves in the armed services will develop a mental health disorder. However, the prevalence of PTSD and depression among veterans is startlingly high — especially for veterans who served in combat zones. Veterans can benefit from getting treatment if they experience certain symptoms, including:
- Have been through trauma
- Are having trouble adjusting to civilian life
- Have a PTSD diagnosis
- Are turning to substance abuse in order to self-medicate mental health symptoms
- Experience frequent or severe mood swings
- Are having problems controlling your anger
Begin Treatment at Sunrise Veterans Health
Sunrise Veterans are dedicated to helping the men and women who have served our country to overcome mental health disorders, including addiction, so that they can have healthy and successful lives outside of the service. We offer a range of evidence-based treatment options that are specifically geared to address the unique needs of veterans.
Getting the help you need to treat mental health disorders is a sign of strength. Let us help you to find mental wellness with effective, personalized mental health treatment. Begin the admissions process and contact us today to learn more about our programs, and how we can help your unique needs.