During military service, service members are often exposed to violence, threats to personal safety, and other traumatic events. These experiences can significantly impact the mental health of active duty service members and veterans. According to the National Alliance for Mental Health, approximately 1 in 4 active duty service members show symptoms of a mental health condition.
This makes it even more important to understand the benefits of veterans therapy and the mental health concerns that service members may be facing. Increased awareness of veterans and mental health care can make it easier for people to access the care they need.
How Does Military Service Affect Mental Health?
When people serve in the military, they’re separated from family members, friends, and other forms of social support, often for extended periods. Military service also requires people to work in stressful or traumatic environments, facing combat stress and other factors. As a result, service members face many risks, including the risk of physical harm.
In addition to the challenges faced during service, post-traumatic stress disorder can make it difficult for veterans to transition to civilian life. Relationship struggles, social exclusion, personality disorder, and homelessness are all problems encountered by veterans, and these issues severely impact mental health.
What percentage of veterans suffer from mental health conditions?
Military service is a sacrifice that puts many people at increased risk for a variety of physical and mental health conditions. One study found that nearly 25% of non-deployed, active-duty military members show symptoms consistent with a serious mental health condition. Within that group, 11% had symptoms of multiple conditions.
Common Mental Health Conditions in Veterans
Military service can take a toll on health and well-being, which is why military mental health concerns are so prevalent and must be better addressed.
“Rates of depression, suicide, and addiction continue to be of increased concern for military veterans. Often, these diagnoses were triggered by service-connected trauma. If you are a veteran and are having thoughts of suicide, please reach out to the Crisis Line by calling or texting 9-8-8 and selecting Option 1 for military members and veterans.”– Talkspace therapist Ashley Ertel, LCSW, BCD, C-DBT
While several conditions affect veterans, research shows that the following are particularly common.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) rates are significantly higher in veterans than in the general populace. While approximately 6.8% of adults are diagnosed with PTSD, reports show that about 12.9% of veterans receive a PTSD diagnosis. In a study from 2014, 87% of veterans reported exposure to at least one traumatic event. If you know a veteran struggling with PTSD, or helping veterans is something you’re passionate about, learn how to help veterans with PTSD.
Depression & suicide
Approximately 23% of active service members and veterans have depression, making it the most common mental health condition among military members. Tragically, suicide rates are high among veterans with depression (particularly depression in men) and other mental health symptoms. According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, the suicide rate for veterans is 57% higher than for civilians.
Many veterans struggle with addiction, and more than 1 in 10 have a substance use disorder. 65% of veterans seeking addiction treatment report alcohol as the primary substance they abuse. Some veterans have injuries that leave them with severe pain, increasing their risk of opioid addiction.
Psychiatric disorders post-traumatic brain injury
From 2000 to 2017, the Department of Defense reported over 375,000 traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) among members of the armed forces. These injuries can lead to many complications, including mental health issues. The National Health Institute reports that up to 1 in 5 people experience mental health symptoms after a TBI.
The Stigma Around Mental Health in the Military
Although military mental health issues are common, many people never seek treatment. One study found that more than 60% of military members don’t get help for mental health concerns. The stigma surrounding mental health issues can keep service members from getting the care that they need.
Many active-duty service members fear that mental health treatment could harm their careers. In addition, military members may feel that asking for help is a sign of weakness. Unfortunately, veterans face similar stigmas, and studies indicate that most veterans who struggle with mental health never seek treatment. According to research conducted by the Wounded Warrior Project, 34.8% of veterans struggle accessing mental health care within the VA system, despite approximately 75% of veterans suffering from PTSD.
Mental Health Resources for Veterans
Although there are many issues surrounding veterans and mental health, resources are available to veterans who are ready to seek treatment. These resources include:
The Veterans Crisis Line
The Veterans Crisis Line is an emergency hotline that provides veterans with 24/7 support. They can call, text, or chat online to connect with a qualified care provider. Responders can connect veterans with local resources and support.
“Military members and veterans are at risk of developing mental health conditions just like their civilian counterparts; however, the stigma for seeking help within this population continues to remain higher than in the civilian population. Seeking help is a sign of strength, and I encourage all military members, veterans, and their families to utilize the many available resources — most at no cost to the member–when in need.”– Talkspace therapist Ashley Ertel, LCSW, BCD, C-DBT
Vet Centers are counseling centers located across the United States. These centers offer professional counseling and other services designed to help veterans transition to civilian life. Many staff members at Vet Centers are also veterans and can provide guidance and support.
The VA’s Solid Start program works to support military personnel as they transition to civilian life. Solid Start representatives help veterans manage stress and connect them with resources to help them during this adjustment period.
The National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
The National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a research and educational center focused on traumatic stress and PTSD. While the center strives to help all people with PTSD, there is a focus on the needs of veterans. The center seeks to help people understand PTSD better and get the help they need.
The Veteran Affairs Polytrauma System of Care
The Veterans Affairs Polytrauma System of Care is a network of rehabilitation programs that help veterans suffering from traumatic brain injuries and polytrauma. These programs offer various services, including case management, care plans, rehabilitation treatments, and psychosocial support.
Addressing Mental Health with Therapy for Veterans
The risk of mental health issues and PTSD in veterans is significant. On average, there are 17 veteran suicides each day, which is why it’s critical for veterans to seek treatment. No matter what kind of military mental health concerns you’re struggling with, therapy can help. Talkspace provides online therapy for veterans and can help you get the support you need.
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