There are no easy answers.
Understanding is perhaps the first step of many in a concentrated effort to improve veterans’ mental health.
Although national support organizations and well-meaning people with the best of intentions are diligently striving to make a change, America’s veteran population remains grievously underserved, and more and more are coming home each day with mental and behavioral health problems that go untreated.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression and anxiety, sexual trauma, and military suicide are not problems that can be solved overnight, but require the concerted strengths and talents of medical and behavioral personnel and the unconditional support of family, friends – and even complete strangers.
There are no easy answers. But that doesn’t mean there is nothing you can do.
The following are three ways in which you can begin to make a difference in veterans’ mental health.
- Listen. When it comes to PTSD, depression, and the possibility of suicide, you may very well be the last line of defense. So listen, always. Don’t judge, ever. Be supportive, but be cognizant of deeper meaning during conversation, and attempt to read between the lines. Always take what they say and do seriously. If you are a friend or family member of an individual who is exhibiting symptoms of PTSD or depression, refer them to licensed professionals who can help. Share the Veterans Crisis Line (1-800-273-8255), which is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and direct them to the Veteran Health Services, Inc. website.
- Discuss. That is to say, raise awareness. Bear a torch for the men and women who protected you while serving overseas, and be a champion for their healing. Be informed and knowledgeable on the issues affecting veterans and their accessibility to services, in addition to late-breaking developments in mental health care. Be engaged in your community. Hold those in power responsible and accountable. Incorporate awareness into your daily routine by sharing news posts and new findings (and blogs) on Social Media platforms. Implement hashtags like #VeteransHealth, #PTSDAwareness, and #SupportOurVets to take part in this continuously evolving conversation. Substantial change requires vigilance on everyone’s part. So whenever possible, participate in local fundraising activities and veteran events. There, you will be able to collaborate with individuals from all walks of life, including veterans, who share your unique desire to help.
- Donate. So many people do not give, because they believe that they cannot give enough to make a true difference. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Even the smallest contribution can kick off a long-running ripple that touches countless lives. Endorse Veteran Support Organizations, such as Veteran Health Services, Inc. and their Give 5 Drive, NAMI, The Soldier’s Project, and many more featured on our Resources page. Remember: Veterans who feel as though they have a place of refuge or an ear to bend – or simply the knowledge that someone out there wants to understand – are far less likely to take their own lives. If a monetary donation is not possible, please consider volunteering.
No one ever said that improving veterans’ mental health was an easy task. But with an impetus to help and to impart real change, there is continued hope.
Give 5 today. Together we can make a difference.