The brave men and women who fought valiantly for their country also came home with issues surrounding their mental health. According to a 2014 JAMA Psychiatry study, one in four active duty members show signs of having a mental health disorder. It is important for those who have served in the military to keep their mental health a priority when they return home as untreated mental health disorders can lead to devastating consequences.
One mental health disorder those in the military experience is depression. This is an intense sadness that takes over their everyday life. They could be experiencing sadness from the tragedies they saw and experienced and see just how harsh the world can be. This is not the type of sadness that those in the military can just get over with time. JAMA 2014 study says that veterans experience depression five times more than civilians.
Another mental health disorder experienced by veterans is post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that comes from the shock of traumatic events like military combat, disasters, sexual assault, getting hurt or witnessing tragedy happen to others can lead to long-lasting effects. People with PTSD tend to experience irritability, trouble sleeping, nightmares, feeling jumpy, and abusing drugs or alcohol to self-medicate their pain. JAMA says that veterans PTSD 15 times higher than civilians.
Having a traumatic brain injury is another mental health issue that veterans deal with. This is normally as a result of being hit in the head or body really hard. You can experience drowsiness, headaches, and mood swings. Injuries like this should not be ignored or more permanent damage could occur towards the injury site that can affect your life.
Veterans also develop substance abuse issues while active and when they return home. Veterans deal with the stress and depression from being away from their families and in a war-torn area. They feel like the only way they can numb their feelings of anxiety or depression is by abusing drugs or alcohol. Coming back from the military can put stress on veterans as well when it comes to finding work, transitioning to civilian life, trying to forget about their time in service, physical and emotional pain they are going through, etc. The refusal to acknowledge their pain and seek treatment will make their substance abuse worse.
When veterans are struggling with mental health issues and substance abuse disorder, they could experience dire consequences like being homeless. Because they spend all of their money on drugs and alcohol, they are not able to pay rent as well as produce a steady income. Homelessness and poverty can cause veterans to steal. Not treating their mental health disorders can lead to getting out of control and becoming violent. With the right course of treatment, they will learn how to control their mood swings and their PTSD.
Another risk veterans face is dying by suicide. The Department of Veteran Affairs says that 20.6 in the military die by suicide with 16.8 as veterans and 3.8 as active duty. PTSD is associated with suicidal behaviors as they may be feeling guilt for behaviors used in combat as well as painful members of watching their service members die. Veterans are also more likely to take their lives in that they have had weapons training so they know how to use them.
The Cumberland County Prosecutor’s Office is asking for veterans to volunteer their time to be mentors for the county’s Veterans Division Program. This program is to help veterans who have substance abuse issues and have engaged themselves in criminal activities because of their PTSD, traumatic brain injuries, mental health issues, and other physical injuries that they experienced during their service. There will be a training session done by the Prosecutor’s Office and the Department of Military and Veteran Affairs at Cumberland County College for veterans interested in being a mentor.
Mentors are to encourage and help their veteran mentees through the criminal justice system while helping with their treatment plans. The mentor is responsible for being a good listener to their mentee and trying to understand any of their concerns. No legal experience is required. Mentors are expected to call their mentee every week on the phone or see them in person. After two years when veterans complete the program, their criminal cases are dismissed and their arrest record is expunged. Mentors being able to relate to the psychological issues their mentees are struggling with can help them make a good team and be a good source of strength.
The most important thing that you can do to help a fellow veteran is by asking how they are doing and listen to them without being quick to interrupt them. Remind them the importance of not only taking care of their physical wounds but their mental wounds as well. That anyone can develop mental health symptoms and that it is not a sign of weakness. You should also let your mentee know that speaking to a counselor will not hurt their career or security clearance. Bridgeton veterans who are struggling with their mental health and substance abuse disorders will be able to seek help from other veterans who can relate to their pain and are willing to help them on their journey to recovery.
Located on the shore of Southern New Jersey, Enlightened Solutions is a recovery center that uses evidence-based therapies and holistic healing to treat addiction and mental illness. With the opportunity to learn about therapies that are keyed in to healing the human spirit and learning about new stress reducing techniques centered around a 12 step network, you will be ensure a lasting recovery. For more information, please call us at 833-801-LIVE as we are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
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