If there’s a trend in the VET Tv Mental Hell and Wellness initiative, it's that while we know there is a systematic problem in the military that needs addressed, and while we know it's not an overnight fix, we do know our immediate power that lies in community. We do know that we can lean on each other, reach out to each other, and help each other when we recognize our buddies are struggling.
But it’s a hell of a lot easier to lend support where it’s needed, if you know what you’re looking for. Some signs are obvious, and some are more subtle. Knowing how to recognize a fellow service member who may be struggling, saves lives. It’s really that simple.
The silent killer. There are many studies that directly correlate military service with increased rates of depression. While there are no lack of resources that discuss ways to recognize symptoms of depressions in yourself, recognizing symptoms of depression in your buddies is every bit as important.
If you have a friend who has always been historically social, loved to go out, and never missed a weekend outing, and you recognize changes in that behavior, this should be a red flag moment. Signs might include going internal at social gatherings, excessive alcohol abuse, or skipping events altogether. Don’t let that go unnoticed.
If your even-keeled, level-headed buddy is now riding an emotional roller coaster, snapping quickly, or being generally irritable, step up and say something. While mood swings can be a direct symptom of depression, they could also be having trouble sleeping or experiencing increased anxiety which can lead to severe mood swings.
Make yourself aware of all the different symptoms of depression, and speak up when you recognize them. The worst thing that happens is you’re wrong. But if we’re being honest here, you’re probably not.
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder is one of the most common mental illnesses military service members experience. Recognizing the symptoms of PTSD in others can be difficult since these signs aren't externally facing - mental flashbacks, feelings of being unsafe, and other internal conflicts.
Becoming irritable or agitated in certain situations
Is your buddy who seemed perfectly fine an hour ago suddenly coming off as agitated, irritable or paranoid because you changed scenery? PTSD episodes are most often caused by flashbacks to traumatic events which can be triggered by sights, sounds, and even smells. If you notice a friend drastically shift moods seemingly out of nowhere, check-in and see what might be happening.
This one can be easier to see from the outside, and it should be taken seriously. The stigma around, “Suck it up for the mission” can be dangerous when it comes to the affects PTSD can have on work performance. Trauma can make it difficult for service members to work in certain settings, make it hard to focus, and affect that person's ability to work at normal standards. In short- don’t assume someone is slacking. Assume they need your help.
This is a big one. Traumatic brain injuries are one of the leading mental health concerns in the military community and can be one of the most lethal.
Confusion or Disorientation
If someone is usually a focused, efficient individual who is suddenly losing trains of thought, having trouble maintaining focus during conversations, or displaying disorientation, that’s a red flag.
We all get them. Headaches themselves are common, and a long day or week can brew one of those babies in full force. But chronic complaints of consistent headaches, particularly ones so severe that individuals have to excuse themselves from work or social events, can be one of the first signs of a TBI.
Educate yourself on these symptoms, and the countless others, and drop the stigma around talking about mental health. Tell your buddy you noticed, you’re concerned, and you’d be surprised how ready he might be to talk about it
Mental Hell and Wellness Series:
Introducing Mental Hell and Wellness: The Path Out of Hell
The Why Behind The Mental Hell and Wellness Series
What Are We Doing About The Mental Hell & Wellness Of Our Vets?
Mental Hell and Wellness: That Awkward Talk (Part 1)
Breakdown: Lauren Rich Ep 1
Breakdown: Lauren Rich Ep 2
Breakdown: Lauren Rich Ep 3
Breakdown: Lauren Rich Ep 4
Breakdown: Lauren Rich Ep 5
Breakdown: Lauren Rich Ep 6
Breakdown: Lauren Rich Ep 7
Breakdown: Lauren Rich Ep 8
Interview: Dr. Abby Cobey
Interview: Dr. Nancy Lin
Interview: Dr. Michael Terry
Interview: Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk