Servicemen and women oftentimes face unique challenges when leaving active duty. Readjusting to civilian life is often met with anxiety, stress, depression, anger and isolation. It can be hard for a veteran to re-establish their role within the family. Additionally, these men and women sometimes struggle working civilian jobs. For some, it could be their first job if they had enlisted right out of high school. It can be a difficult adjustment, to have more freedom to make their own choices instead of being given instructions for how to do things and like when experienced in the military.
Sometimes, veterans return with a compromised state of mental health due to what they witnessed while on duty. Among the most prevalent ailments is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It is sometimes difficult for veterans to come to grips with PTSD and it can be especially difficult for their loved ones to understand the gravity of the situation. That’s why it is important to educate yourself on what a soldier undergoes after returning home. While you might have heard of PTSD and other related disorders such as stress, anxiety and depression, it varies greatly when in relation to the military. Identifying and deciphering these differences will bring you that much closer to helping yourself or a loved one support military-related mental health issues and any drug or alcohol problems they have developed because of it.
PTSD and the Military
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), PTSD is a disorder that develops after witnessing a shocking, scary or dangerous event. For military personnel, their trauma likely stems from what they have witnessed at war—not only in regard to being in situations that cause them to question their mortality but having to witness the mortality of fellow soldiers. Additionally, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, PTSD is more common among U.S. soldiers than the general population. Further, the report shows that upwards of 20% of Iraqi Freedom soldiers will experience PTSD and 30% of Vietnam War veterans have or will develop PTSD. What is it like for a soldier to experience this?
According to NIMH, for many servicemen and women, PTSD begins with flashbacks to the event—these could be thoughts that interfere during the day or dreams that happen at night. As a result, avoidance symptoms might develop where they purposely distance themselves from thoughts and events that trigger their memory. If you notice your loved one beginning to avoid certain situations, this could suggest PTSD and they should seek help. Likewise, when their episodes of fear, anger, sadness, guilt or anxiety become more intermittent, and they turn to substances to cope, they are in a state of needing treatment.
Helping a Veteran Who Struggles with Mental Health
While it can be difficult to approach your loved one when they need help, you should also be aware and track their behavioral patterns. This way, when your loved one does seek treatment, you can provide the doctor with as much information as possible. Always try to work with your loved one—don’t further pressure them prematurely. However, you should also not wait for them to open up to you. Educate yourself on PTSD and other mental illnesses surrounding veterans. While some signs might seem obvious, like anger, sadness, tension, etc., other signs are more subtle, like being passive, lazy and unmotivated.
Often, intimacy problems arise within relationships, causing the unaffected spouse or partner to feel unloved or rejected. Remember to practice patience and never take anything personally. It is their illness that has altered their behavior, not you. Try to respond with positivity and optimism. This will remind you and your loved one that you offer your support and understanding and that they are loved. Remember to maintain support.
Next would be offering to get them outside help. This could include therapy or counseling, either one-on-one or in group sessions. You could even consider family therapy so that everyone can work through this together. If you feel at a loss on where to start, you can reach out to other local veterans who share similar experiences to ask for direction regarding where to get help. Whenever choosing a professional, it is suggested that you choose a qualified specialist who works with veterans. Reference their credentials and qualifications, their treatment approach and how they initiate an introductory meeting.
Veterans Affairs Services
You can specify your search by referencing The Guide to V.A. Mental Health Services for Veterans and Families. This will educate you and your loved one further on the treatments available through the Department of Veterans Affairs. You can reference what kind of medications are used to treat different illnesses and you can also research how treatment differs for veterans and long-term or intensive care. While eligibility depends on various factors, it generally accepts those who have completed active military service in one of the U.S. branches of the military who are honorably discharged.
It is important to understand and advocate for military service members who are struggling with mental health disorders. These servicemen and women serve to protect us so it’s only right to look out for them. If you or someone you know is a veteran struggling with addiction, whether or not it’s due to a mental health disorder, treatment is available for you. At New Hope Ranch, our mission is to treat and advocate for all people in need. We offer a specialized program for veterans who have made so many sacrifices, and we want to give back by helping them receive the treatment they need when they need it. To learn more, call us today at (737) 600-8565.