Veterans need community support

All give some. Some give all. Some military veterans still suffer from the injuries, physical and mental, that they experienced while defending our nation, things that civilians may never really understand. Our warriors need support and encouragement to be at their best, physically and mentally. Fear of damage to their military careers and effects on security clearance may hold back military personnel from seeking the help they need to build resilience and overcome the conditions under which they are struggling.

SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) shares a few facts about the mental health of U.S. veterans:

Between 2004 and 2006, 7.1 percent of U.S. veterans met the criteria for a substance abuse disorder.

In 2012, the Army suicide rate reached an all-time high.

Between 2005 and 2009, there was an average of one armed forces suicide every 36 hours.

In 2009, nearly 76,000 veterans experienced homelessness on a given night. Some 136,000 veterans spent at least one night in a shelter.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) references a 2014 study in JAMA Psychiatry to report that “nearly 1 in 4 active duty members showed signs of a mental health condition.” The three primary health concerns NAMI cites are PTSD, depression and TBI (traumatic brain injury.)

PTSD reportedly is 15 times higher for military personal than for civilians. Military combat, assault and sexual assault, and disasters are major contributors to problems that include sleeping, anger, anxiety issues, and alcohol or drug abuse.

Depression is five times higher than for civilians. These are issues one can’t “just get over it,” issues that prevent the person from being able to function in their daily life.

TBI is caused by a “significant blow to the head or body.” Headache, fatigue, memory problems and mood changes are some of the symptoms of such an injury.

Military warriors need community support. Ask how they’re doing. Listen without judgment. Encourage them. Remind them that such problems can happen to anyone, even generals. The mail goal of the military is to have a strong fighting force. Counselors and medical officers can help build resilience, the ability to recover quickly from difficulties.

“The military has changed many of its policies in recent years to encourage better mental health,” NAMI advises. “The Department of Defense acknowledges that untreated mental health conditions pose a greater safety threat than mental health conditions for which you’re seeking treatment.” In other words, not getting the treatment needed for mental health issues can damage the person’s military career.

Lifeline to Vets (National Veterans Foundation) advises, “At the National Veterans Foundation, many of the crisis calls we handle begin with issues of isolation and loneliness. Untreated, this can lead to substance abuse, relationship problems and violent behavior.”

Addiction has no address, but Family Recovery Center does. For more information about the education, prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse and related behavioral issues, contact the agency at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468; or e-mail, info@familyrecovery.org. FRC is funded, in part, by United Way of Northern Columbiana County.

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