The Veteran Mental Health Problem We Need to be Talking About

The Veteran Mental Health Problem We Need to be Talking About

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

When we talk about fighting the addiction problem in America and better understanding substance use disorder, we have to acknowledge those who are at a specific risk for suffering from substance use. Far too many American soldiers come home only to fight another devastating, heartbreaking battle.

With addiction being considered a mental health issue, it should be clear the contribution of overall mental health makes to causing substance use disorder (SUD) in many cases. Depression, bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are all mental health issues that often associated with addiction.

Some of those susceptible to mental health disorders and substance abuse are those who fight for the safety and freedom of our country; our Veterans. So we need to acknowledge the mental health issues that the men and women who sacrifice everything for this nation are suffering through. We need to talk about how to best understand these conditions, and how to best treat those in need.

Veteran Mental Health Disorder Statistics

According to the RAND Center for Military Health Policy Research:

  • 20% of Veterans who served in either Iraq or Afghanistan suffer from either major depression or PTSD

  • 5% of Veterans in these two categories have suffered a traumatic brain injury

According to the U.S. Department of Federal Affairs:

  • More than 2 out of 10 veterans with PTSD also suffer from SUD

  • In the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, about 1 in 10 returning soldiers seen in VA have a problem with alcohol or other drugs.

  • Almost 1 out of every 3 Veterans seeking treatment for SUD also has PTSD.

  • War Veterans with PTSD and alcohol problems tend to be binge drinkers.

  • Among all U.S. adult deaths from suicide, 18% (7,403) were identified as Veterans of U.S. military service

Probably one of the most troubling statistics comes from a study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) which tragically revealed:

Only 50% of returning vets who need veteran mental health treatment will receive these services.

That is an extremely troubling number. It says a lot about how Veterans are struggling to get the help they need when you realize that only around half of them ever get it.

Veterans and Substance Abuse

One of the hardest issues to address when examining the veteran mental health issue is substance abuse and SUD. It is also one of the most important aspects of Veteran mental health treatment that need to be acknowledged.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that substance abuse among veterans is strongly connected to their experiences in combat and how they struggle to cope with these traumas. Various NIDA studies indicate that:

  • 25% of Veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan showed signs of SUD

  • In 2008, active duty and veteran military personnel abused prescription drugs at a rate that was more than twice the rate for the civilian population

  • In 2009, the VA estimated that around 13,000 vets from Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from alcohol dependence syndrome and require veteran mental health treatment for this problem.

PTSD and SUD

A lot of people, even those who are not Veterans but have experienced great trauma, use substances to self-medicate and deal with PTSD. Even for those who have never had an issue with substances or may never have even used substances, PTSD increases the risk an individual can develop a drinking or drug problem or SUD.

To make matters worse, PTSD and SUD can likely lead to other problems in life, including health. These Veteran mental health issues can often be associated with:

Ultimately, using drugs or alcohol in combination with PTSD might seem to make things easier, but will actually make them a lot worse. It creates a vicious cycle of numbing and re-traumatizing.

Better Treatment for Veteran Mental Health and Addiction

Many advocates for Veteran services, including the National Veterans Foundation (NVF), believe:

  • More funding needs to be allocated for Veteran mental health care services so that every veteran has easy access to this type of care.
  • Excessive wait times at local VA facilities need to be addressed in order to grant people the access they need to these services.

The NVF website states:

“We can no longer look the other way or continue to underfund the mental health care system that our veterans use.”

This should absolutely be a priority. Strengthening the system that provides mental health care not just to citizens who are suffering, but to our vets who have given so much and desperately need help, is crucial to saving lives from substance use disorder.

Not only does Palm Healthcare Company understand the importance of providing quality addiction recovery treatment, but we also know how important dual diagnosis treatment is for those who suffer from serious mental health conditions like PTSD or major depression along with addiction. Better treatment means addressing both conditions simultaneously, to help the individual heal holistically.

Palm Healthcare Company also knows how important it is to help those first responders and Veterans that put their lives on the line every day. That is why we are a proud sponsor of the Harrigan Foundation’s Annual Run to the Rescue 5K to raise money for the treatment of first responders and veterans.

To find out more about this event, visit the link here:

Harrigan Foundation’s Annual RUN TO THE RESCUE 5K

Mental health care and addiction treatment for vets is an important resource that can save lives and our veterans put their lives back together after experiencing trauma and hardship that causes PTSD and the devastation of substance abuse. If you or a loved one is struggling, you don’t have to fight alone. Please call toll-free now.

 CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398

After Las Vegas Shooting: PTSD and Mental Health Must be Priority

After Las Vegas Shooting: PTSD and Mental Health Must be Priority

Just this past Sunday the nation saw one of the deadliest shootings in modern American history in Las Vegas. This immense and indescribable tragedy shocked the world as news reports and live footage filled the airwaves after a gunman opened fire with high-powered rifles at an outdoor music festival. At this point there are at least 58 dead and over 520 wounded, making it the deadliest mass shooting in recent history.

The heartbreak and weight of this tragedy truly cannot be put into words. The unimaginable loss is without parallel. Beyond those who lost their lives in such a senseless act of violence, the impacts this event has had on countless friends, families and loved ones are unfathomable.

In the aftermath of the Las Vegas shooting, mental health must be a priority. How we address and protect the psychological well-being of every American must be a very serious part of the conversation. We have to take a close look at how we are facing mental health, and support those who have been traumatized in the wake of such horrific events.

PTSD of Mass Shootings

The risks of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is extremely elevated in situations like this. Research on mass shootings is not extensive but is sufficient enough to allow for some preliminary conclusions. One study examined 15 mass shooting events to review consequences of the incidents upon survivors. From these studies conclusion, researchers stated:

  • Prevalence of post-disaster diagnoses (predominantly PTSD) in these studies ranged from 10% to 36%
  • Much higher percentages reported sub-threshold PTSD
  • Very few participants reported no symptoms

One 1994 study in the American Journal of Psychiatry shows that in the acute post-disaster period:

  • 20% of the men met criteria for PTSD after a mass shooting
  • 36% of the women met criteria for PTSD

The same study looked at those with post-disaster PTSD who also met criteria for another post-disaster psychiatric diagnosis, especially major depression. They found:

  • One-half of the women met the criteria
  • One-fourth of the men met the criteria

Experts say most people will recover fully from post-disaster PTSD within 6 to 16 months, but most still emphasize the importance of support.

Not only can those present at the tragedy be affected directly, but also those not present but connected to the location or individuals present can be affected vicariously. You don’t have to experience something so horrifying first-hand to suffer a severe impact. An attack like this can have deep emotional effects on those who witness the event, or even for those all over the world following the story.

Understanding PTSD

Part of dealing with the residual effects of tragic events and disasters is to understand how conditions like PTSD can impact people. PTSD can result in emotional, physical and even cognitive issues that some people may not know how to recognize or cope with.

Emotional Effects of PTSD Include

  • Shock
  • Terror
  • Irritability
  • Blame
  • Anger
  • Guilt
  • Grief or sadness
  • Emotional numbing
  • Helplessness
  • Loss of pleasure derived from familiar activities
  • Difficulty feeling happy
  • Difficulty experiencing loving feelings

Physical Effects of PTSD Include

  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Exhaustion
  • Insomnia
  • Startle response
  • Cardiovascular strain
  • Increased physical pain
  • Reduced immune response
  • Gastrointestinal upset
  • Decreased appetite
  • Decreased libido

Cognitive Effects of PTSD Include

  • Decreased concentration
  • Confusion
  • Impaired decision making
  • Disbelief
  • Dissociation
  • Nightmares
  • Impaired Memory
  • Decreased self-esteem
  • Reduced self-efficacy
  • Self-blame
  • Intrusive thoughts/memories
  • Anxiety

All of these things can cause other more personal issues. Some will experience difficulty with intimacy or social relationships. Isolation and alienation can develop at work, at school or even at home.

According to PTSD United, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing support and resources for those suffering from PTSD:

  • 70% of adults (approximately 223.4 million people) in the US have experienced some type of traumatic event at least once in their lives.
  • Up to 20% of these people go on to develop PTSD.
  • Approximately 44.7 million people today either have struggled or are struggling with PTSD.

With PTSD, a lot of people actually turn to drugs or alcohol to self-medicate. Some will rely on substances as a form of relief when PTSD brings feelings of isolation or depression. However, as people try to numb or distract themselves from these feelings, they tend to create more problems through substance use.

Often times, the substances only fuel feelings of isolation, depression or anxiety.

Make Mental Health a Priority

This week, October 1 through October 7, is Mental Illness Awareness Week. There is no time like the present to discuss the current state of mental health across the country. Now is always the time to advocate for better support, services, and acceptance when discussing mental illness and mental health in America.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH):

  • 9% of all U.S. adults (43.4 million)qualified as having mental health issues in 2015
  • Approximately 20-21% of incarcerated Americans have a “recent history” of mental health issues
  • 70% of young people caught up in the juvenile justice system have at least one mental health issue
  • 46% of people living in homeless shelters live with severe mental health issues and/or substance use disorders (SUDs)

In the aftermath of such profound tragedy like the recent shooting in Las Vegas, or even natural disasters like recently with Hurricane Irma or Hurricane Maria, there should be a very direct conversation about mental health. We should also work diligently to ensure that while the world grapples with opioid addiction and drug abuse, that more people don’t turn to self-medicating to fight feelings of loss, terror or alienation.

For all survivors of recent tragedies, or those affected indirectly, there are ways to take care of yourself and monitor your own mental state. Make your own mental health a priority. Protect yourself from destructive behaviors, and reach out for help in the wake of such emotionally compromising events as what happened in Las Vegas.

The national crisis hotline also offers confidential and free services 24/7/365 Call (775) 784-8090 or text ANSWER to 839-863

Our hearts and prayers go out to all those touched by this tragedy.

If you or someone you love is struggling with trauma, don’t let substance abuse make it all even worse. Drugs or alcohol are not the answer. There is real help out there. Please call toll-free now.

 CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398

Pin It on Pinterest