Thankfully, mental health concerns among veterans have gained more attention and have been taken more seriously in recent years. Disorders such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and depression are some of the most highly broadcasted mental health issues regarding veterans, popularized, though not always accurately depicted, by many films and television shows. However, other mental health disorders can also affect veterans, such as traumatic brain injuries (TBI), substance use, anxiety, insomnia, and more. Like any community, veterans are not a one-size-fits-all group. Their experience changes based on what branch they served in, the time period in which they served, their background prior to joining the military, and many other factors.
Whether a veteran in your life is a close friend, beloved family member, or perhaps a coworker or new acquaintance, you want to support them, but you also don’t want them to feel othered, meaning feeling as though they are inherently different or isolated. Ask them what their service meant to them, but don’t assume that they’re always ready and willing to talk about their service. If you are not sure if they want to talk about their experiences, it is okay to ask them if you can ask some questions, but also respect their wishes if they tell you they would rather not talk about it. Veterans are people, and by engaging them with respect and compassion, we can help create a more welcoming environment.
To better support a veteran with their mental health, it helps to have a better understanding of the causes, symptoms, and treatments of some of the most common disorders for veterans. NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), has helpful resources to teach you more about suicide, depression, PTSD, TBI, and anxiety.
If a veteran you know is struggling with their mental health, reach out to them. Let them know you care about their well-being and that they don’t have to suffer in silence. Support is available for them in their community. Have community resource information available to give them. Jefferson Center offers veteran and military family services, providing confidential counseling to help with mental health disorders, substance use disorders, life after the military, healing from military sexual trauma (MST), transitioning from homelessness, and more. Click the link below to learn more about Jefferson Center’s services and programs available to veterans and military families.