THE MILITARY AND MENTAL ILLNESS

Being in the military during times of war is stressful, especially if you’ve been on multiple deployments or have seen combat or the grievous injuries and deaths caused by combat. You’re away from your support system and worried about your family, and they are worried about you and may be struggling in your absence. Your family and friends back home can’t really understand what you’ve been through because they’ve never seen the things you have. Your relationships with your loved ones may become strained. If it all gets to be too much for even a Super Soldier or Super Sailor to handle, you may be reluctant to get help because you feel you should be able to handle anything. But even Super Soldiers and Super Sailors sometimes need help.

According to SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration), about 18.5% of military members who have returned from duty in Iraq or Afghanistan suffer from PTSD or depression. Other ill effects from their service may include suicide, substance abuse, and homelessness. Family members of military personnel may also experience mental health or behavioral problems related to their loved ones’ service.

The military is fighting back. It is working to decrease the stigma among its members about mental illness and it is trying to better address service members’ problems. SAMHSA and other organizations provide resources for servicemen and servicewomen, including peer support through a Department of Defense program, as well as assistance for veterans with reintegration into civilian life. Services for military families are available, as well. There are also crisis lines for both veterans and active duty personnel.

The Veterans Administration has been unable to treat the psychiatric wounds of service members and veterans in a timely manner. While the VA has been trying to improve the situation, there may still be a wait before people can get the help they need. We owe our military members and veterans top-notch care, but we haven’t lived up to that obligation. The programs listed above provide additional options for treatment while waiting for care at the VA or in addition to care at the VA. In this way, we can at least begin to pay our debt to our brave service members.

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