NOTE: We thank Donna Fitzgerald for this guest blog.
As advocates of military vets, we try hard to connect and understand the experiences they had during their tours of duty. While some vets had positive experiences, hundreds of thousands of veterans have returned home with physical pain and mental images that can’t be erased.
Returning home to a life of normalcy is often a difficult transition for vets, but can be more complicated when their overseas experiences still haunt them. Tragically, for some, self-harm and suicide seem to be the only options when trying to escape the daily nightmares and the mental imagery that won’t go away.
Like all of us, we can hope to have a brighter and more promising year in 2017. Here are some ways that veterans can make positive changes, in their lives, in the new year:
According to The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), approximately 1 in 4 active duty members exhibit signs of a mental health illness. When left undiagnosed and untreated, the mental health issue often persists or worsens when they become veterans.
Some of the most common mental health concerns found in veterans include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), and depression. While the severity of these conditions vary, many vets struggle with homelessness, unemployment, substance abuse, suicide attempts, or loss of relationships.
While it’s easy for many of us to say, “Go get some help,” it’s not always easy. First of all, some vets are so ill that they are unaware of their mental health disorder while some are in denial. Secondly, stigma surrounding mental illness keeps many people from getting the help they need and deserve. If you know a vet struggling with mental illness, help him or her seek out helpful mental health resources and get closer to managing his or her illness.
Of the over half a million homeless individuals on any given night, approximately 10 percent of the population is made of of vets. Like other people struggling with homelessness, homeless vets don’t plan to be without a place to call home. Mental health issues, substance abuse, and struggling to assimilate into civilian life can all contribute to homelessness.
After risking their lives to protect our country, every returning vet deserves to have a permanent place to live. By volunteering, donating, or simply helping a vet utilize resources in his or her community, you may be able to help eliminate homelessness in vets.
A life in the military is much different than the everyday civilian life. Being in active duty means following strict orders and routines, as well as performing specific tasks that can only be done by military personnel. When vets return home, they often struggle to find employment because it’s difficult to find jobs that match a vet’s skillset.
Without a daily routine or jobs to perform, life can feel idle and some vets experience loss of confidence or having purpose. As civilians, we can do our part to make every veteran feel wanted, cared for, and needed. Whether you thank a veteran or help him or her transition to life after the military, your attention can make a difference and make 2017 a good year.
If you are a veteran struggling with PTSD, depression, anxiety, TBI, or anything else – don’t wait until you’re in crisis to get help. We have over 3,000 resources who can help you with your specific challenges. Just reach out.
Donna Fitzgerald is a mother of two loving daughters who enjoys writing about topics in which she is passionate about. Having a father who served our country, veterans and their stance in society is an area in which she says she is “naturally inclined to write about.”