Mental health and the military: Starting at the source. There has always been a lot media buzz and attention surrounding the lack of mental health care available to veterans. It’s one of the biggest medical problems that the veteran community faces. The rates at which veterans of all ages experience mental health disorders, issues with substance abuse, and PTSD are grossly disproportionate when compared to their civilian counterparts.
While focusing on addressing the issue of mental health in the veteran community is fiercely important, knowing where the problem actually starts is equally important. Drawing attention to how mental health is addressed in the active duty community is crucial to finding solutions to the mental health crisis facing the entire military community.
Introducing Dr. Bessel
In this episode of Mental Hell and Wellness, VET Tv sits down with Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, Psychiatrist, Author, and PTSD expert, to talk about the traumas commonly associated with military service, and where the mental health effects of combat truly start.
Too Little, Too Late.
The number of active duty service members that are battling mental health issues have been rapidly increasing over the past decades, presumably driven by the rising number of members actively being deployed and what has been perceived as a lack of a clearly defined military mission.
Crunching the Numbers With PTSD
Despite certain psychotherapy and pharmacotherapies available to active duty service members, more than 50% of patients with PTSD will never enter full remittance. Studies conducted on military members show that pharmacotherapies provide virtually no long-term improvements for patients with PTSD. Read: Prescribing more drugs is not the answer, it’s not a solution, and it’s not helping.
Early detection of symptoms is key to addressing mental health disorders at their onset, but these symptoms frequently go undetected due to suppression from service members, a lack of trained clinicians, a shortage of services and not enough research dedicated to finding evidence-based treatments to halt issues at the source. The lack of a proper mental health treatment strategy within the military allows for the continued festering of these issues and leads to a greater and more expansive problem in the veteran community.
The Role of the Community
While the military has a real issue to solve internally, unfortunately that shift cannot occur overnight. There is no magic wand that can be waived to fix the systematic shortcomings of military mental health programs. As a community, we have little immediate control over that broader scope.
What we do have control over is how we choose to look out for one another. We do have control over how often we reach out to our fellow service members and veterans who may be struggling, and we do have control over how closely we pay attention to symptoms and warning signs of trauma, depression, PTSD, anxiety, and substance abuse.
We’re dedicated to using the power of community and social connection, of just talking to each other, to help make a difference in the mental health initiative for our brothers and sisters in uniform. It’s time we started tackling it from the source.