Nearly 22 veterans commit suicide daily, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. Of these 22 only six had recently reached out to the Department of Veterans Affairs for help.
This percentage has risen nearly 31 percent since 2004. While many studies have been completed to get a better understanding of veterans’ mental health, not enough services have been provided to help our veterans treat and learn to live with these disorders.
Returning soldiers may suffer from one or many mental disorders, such as post traumatic stress disorder, depression, substance abuse, or traumatic brain injuries. These are life-altering conditions. It is much more than simply being sad or shaky; many veterans completely lose the lifestyle they had before their service.
There are numerous treatment options for these disorders; however, they are not as readily available as they need to be. More and more veterans are coming forward and asking for treatment, but there has not been a similar increase in providing help for those who served our country.
The Department of Veterans Affairs is supposed to be a resource for the issues a veteran may experience during their enlistment and after. However, due to extensive wait times for diagnosis and care, and subpar treatment options, many veterans are going untreated or having to seek help from private services. For example, most veterans’ mental health diagnoses are completed in primary care facilities. Though I am glad the men and women were able to find their diagnosis, the department dedicated only to these service members should have been able to diagnosis their own veterans.
If the United States can spend so much money sending soldiers overseas, why can’t we be as willing to take care of them when they get back? Why can’t we spend as much time assisting those who sacrificed their lives? Why can’t we do more to explain the symptoms and warning signs of mental health issues before soldiers even see combat? Our service members are worth it. Our priorities must change.
The Department of Veterans Affairs also needs to provide more mental health education, not only for service members but also their families. The VA should also publish more public knowledge to civilians to help end the stigma against mental health disorders. This stigma discourages service members from reaching out; military members are supposed to be “tough” and do their jobs without complaint. No matter how tough someone is, going to war can cause mental damage that no one is immune to.
The best way for you to help the nearly 30 percent of military members with any service-related mental health issues is to educate yourself and share your support. While you may not directly have the abililty to treat them or raise the funding for their mental care, breaking the stigma against mental health is a step in the right direction.
They’ve done their part. It’s about time we do ours.