After having fought in multiple wars during different eras to protect the nation, American veterans often struggle with a variety of emotional and behavioral health problems and most of them fail to receive the required treatment due to cracks in the system. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), approximately 20 veterans commit suicide on a daily basis across the U.S., a disturbing figure which reflects the deteriorating mental health crisis among the community. Moreover, about 11 to 20 percent of officers who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) each year, and the numbers don’t seem to decrease in the near future.
In the light of such a worrisome situation, American Veterans (AMVETS) — a nonpartisan organization that represents the interests of 20 million veterans — has joined the VA to reach out to those with mental illness through a multifaceted initiative called Healthcare Evaluation, Advocacy, and Legislation (HEAL). Through this program, AMVETS plans to get in touch with veterans through a series of round table discussions, town halls and other public forums.
AMVETS chief medical executive Lana McKenzie said they plan to improve the lives of veterans who are in dire need of support and treatment. Currently, AMVETS is recruiting case managers to work with afflicted veterans and get them connected with mental health services within or outside the VA, whichever is available. AMVETS has also launched an 833-VET-HEAL, which will be operational from March 19, 2018, helping veterans to reach out for help.
Lauding the initiative, VA Secretary David Shulkin said that mental health, especially preventing suicide, is the department’s top priority. The cost of the initiative is estimated to be around $700,000, and AMVETS hopes to partner with interested organizations to raise some funds. The VA data show that in 2014, over 7,400 veterans committed suicide. This accounts for 18 percent of all suicides in the U.S. Besides, almost 70 percent of veterans who ended their own lives did not use VA services.
“Only the cowardly and unmanly are affected by mental health issues” is the most common perception, which prevents many veterans from seeking counseling or medical intervention. Living up to their tough macho image is one great misconception which also pushes them toward drug and alcohol addiction. Just as in the civilian world, servicemen too have to face stigma associated with seeking professional help for their mental condition. There is a greater need to educate families about the importance of reaching out to seek help.
Mental health problems are treatable
Prolonged exposure to bloodshed, devastation and other traumatic events can leave any individual vulnerable to a wide range of mental health problems. Soldiers who are sent on heroic assignments are likely to experience chronic levels of stress or anxiety. However, there is hope because most mental health problems can be treated with positive outcomes. Above all, family members and friends should take nonjudgmental measures to eradicate the stumbling blocks and stigma associated with seeking help or speaking out. Besides, educating afflicted individuals about their condition and the consequences of not seeking help is the key to weed out the malaise because they should learn to recognize the warning signs of a possible mental breakdown.
Sovereign Health of California offers a variety of customized treatments for all kinds of mental health disorders as well as any underlying health condition. Patients can opt for individual and group psychotherapy, or alternative therapies to regain control of their lives. Our residential mental health treatment centers in California are among the best in the nation. If you or your loved one is struggling with any psychiatric ailment, call our 24/7 helpline or chat online with one of our representatives to know more about our state-of-the-art treatment centers for mental health.
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