Veterans Day not only offer an opportunity for us to thank them for their service but also allows us to remember and reflect on their sacrifices. America’s veterans are celebrated on this day for their patriotism as well as for their willingness to fight and offer their lives for the country. The military veterans in the country wore different uniforms, used a variety of weaponry, fought different battles and come from different eras but they are all tied by a common experience which is moving from one place to another, training or fighting and living an ever-changing life.
Military veterans experience a challenging lifestyle and many veterans experience some mental health challenges including depression, TBI or PTSD due to their unique situation. Here is a list of five tips that can help you support our veterans:
Statistics suggest that on an average, 22 veterans take their own life each day. Almost 20% of the suicides nationally are committed by veterans whereas veterans form around 10% of the adult population of the country. The Department of Veteran Affairs has acknowledged that around 20% of the veterans who served in Afghanistan or Iraq experience PTSD and there hasn’t been any significant improvement in these numbers. In other words, our military veterans are at huge risk and they need to be supported.
There are several Veteran Support Organizations that offer support to veterans. Some of the most well-known organizations that you can reach out to in order to help veterans include American Legion, VFW and IAVA among others. These organizations offer strong support against suicide. You should also know that a military veteran is less likely to commit suicide in case they feel connected to their community and can turn to their friends and others when they are in need of help. You should also donate your money and time to support veterans. NAMI and various Veteran Service Organizations help in providing the required support and resources to veterans. Volunteers can make a lot of difference in the life of a veteran.
It is important that you take the suicidal thoughts shared by a veteran seriously. You should ask them and encourage them to get the required help from a professional. You should also share the 24 x 7 Veterans Crisis Line with them – 1-800-273-8255.
A variety of traumatic events including disasters, assault as well as military combat can have negative effects on individuals. These effects last for a long time and may include nightmares, anger, trouble sleeping as well as drug and alcohol abuse among other things. If these effects don’t go away after some time, it could be PTSD. While PTSD is not just limited to the military, the JAMA Psychiatry study found that PTSD rate among military veterans is 15 times higher as compared to civilians.
To help our military veterans suffering from PTSD, you should provide referrals to these veterans to organizations specializing in treatment of PTSD. A lot of information, resources and support is offered for PTSD including PTSD therapy. You can use these resources to inform yourself better to help support the military veteran in your life or to refer a military veteran to them.
Everyday events can also be triggers for PTSD. For instance, loud noise due to fireworks may trigger symptoms of PTSD in military veterans. You can help by notifying the local veteran groups to make them aware of any events involving fireworks. Advanced knowledge of such an event could potentially help veterans by allowing them to be prepared in order to cope with any potential symptoms.
It is important for you to know that PTSD is a very high risk factor for suicide and in case anyone in your life such as a family member, a fellow student, a co-worker or a friend display such symptoms, you should immediately refer them to a professional. Also, you should never be afraid to ask and you should never wait as sometimes, it can be too late.
Traumatic Brain Injury
It is also known as the signature wound of the wars fought after 9/11. The safety and health of military veterans is impacted by the blast-related concussion events as well as the high rate of traumatic brain injury due to current combat operations. You should also know that military veterans sustain TBIs through their life and the biggest increase in TBIs happens when they enter into their 70s and 80s. As far as the symptoms are concerned, these may include drowsiness, fatigue, headaches, mood changes, memory issues as well as mood swings. These injuries may lead to high levels of disability and are usually caused by falls.
Do not make the mistake of thinking that all the wounds are always visible as you may not notice TBI at first. Mood changes or memory issues may be related to depression or another mood disorder but it could also be the result of a traumatic brain injury. There is nothing called mild TBI as even mild injuries may lead to significant impairment in various walks of life.
You can help veterans suffering from TBI by volunteering to work with them. There are various organizations such as Project HEAL that train service dogs. You can help veterans by offering your help to such organizations. You may also provide assistance by volunteering at the VA or at veteran’s homes.
Several organizations offer support to veterans struggling with TBI. Some of these organizations include Brainline Military and Disabled American Veterans among others.
It won’t be wrong to say that one of the most commonly known mental health conditions is depression. Some of the symptoms of depression include persistent irritable or sad mood, changes in energy levels, appetite, sleep, lack of pleasure or interest in activities that one used to enjoy, issues with concentration and memory as well as recurrent thoughts of suicide or death.
As far as the risk factors for suicide for military veterans is concerned, a recent study has found that these risk factors differ in significant ways as compared to the risk factors for general population. The risk for suicide for general population usually increases with age but in case of veterans, younger individuals happen to be at the most risk. Veterans that struggle with their diagnosis are most likely to battle with substance abuse or commit suicide. The Veterans Association found that around 10% of the veterans treated by them between 2009 and 2013 suffered from major depressive disorder.
You can help veterans suffering from depression by helping them with day to day tasks that are not easy for them to accomplish. For instance, you could accompany veterans to the store in case they are not comfortable driving or memorizing lists, or you could help them with menu items for meals. NAMI offers a lot of information and resources to help people suffering from depression. You may use these resources to help veterans or recommend them to a mental health professional. It’s important to get immediate help to a veteran in case they are depressed and suicidal.
Anxiety is a normal human reaction to stress. In many cases, anxiety can be positive. For instance, being anxious allows you to deal with tense situations. It allows you to focus better to accomplish an important task such as study harder for an exam or deal with a new situation. In other words, anxiety helps in coping better. However, excessive anxiety can get in the way of everyday activities and interfere with day to day life.
A life-threatening event or severe trauma can lead to development of anxiety among some veterans. Some veterans may develop anxiety disorder due to various stressful events such as when they transition from military to civilian life. Certain behaviors and strategies necessary for military situations are hard to turn off for some service members and veterans, and it may lead to anxiety.
Anxiety can manifest as an overall sense of unease or as a panic attack and it affects a lot of people. You can help a veteran suffering from anxiety by making yourself available and by offering them assistance and support.
One of the best ways to thank the military veterans for their service is to understand and support their marital health needs. So, you should find a way to get involved every day and not just on Veteran’s Day.