If you’ve watched the news over the last 15 years, you’ve probably noticed that the media tends to primarily focus on the improvements that still need to be made for returning military personnel and their loved ones to have access to social benefits and mental health care. However, government-related and independent organizations have been making significant effort toward improving the lives of returning veterans and their families, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Therefore, in honor of Veteran’s Day on November 11, Rewire Me wanted to spotlight the strides we are making in the right direction.
Veterans with untreated mental disorders tend to have a very difficult time reintegrating back into society. They are significantly more at risk for poverty, homelessness, and hospitalization than the average person. Recent statistics approximate 22 US veterans commit suicide on a daily basis due to depression, anxiety, PTSD, substance abuse and different kinds of physical and emotional trauma. Still, just 30 to 40 percent of veterans that show symptoms of severe mental or emotional distress actually seek professional help. Fortunately, organizations such as The Soldiers Project, Give an Hour and others are working to change this.
Founded in 2014 by Dr Judith T Broder, The Soldiers Project is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing free and confidential mental health services to US military veterans and their families. War does not only affect the services members. Their wives, husbands, children, parents, and others close to them are also affected. The challenge for all of them lies in relearning about each other reestablishing their relationships. “As mental health practitioners who understand the far-reaching consequences of these war-related experiences, we can provide the support that is needed to smooth the transition to family and civilian life.”
Anyone who has served in the armed forces since September 11, 2001, is eligible for the program regardless of discharge status – and it has helped thousands of people to date. Since the organization is 100% funded by private foundations, groups and individuals, veterans can access stigma free treatment from real professional that often prevents them from seeking psychological help at military affiliated establishments, where there the pressure to remain strong and resilient serves as a strong deterrent.
Founded in September of 2005 by Dr Barbara Van Dahlen, Give an Hour is another nonprofit organization currently working to provide access to mental health services to military personnel involved in post-9/11 military conflicts in the Middle East. According to its website: “Over 2.6 million troops have been deployed in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Persian Gulf since September 11, 2001. Nearly 550,000 of these troops have been deployed more than once.”
Its mental health providers are also working on reducing the stigma associated with mental health by engaging in educational outreach efforts in schools, community centers and military bases. Around 7,000 professionals are working with the organization as of 2014, to provide psychological care to veterans and military personnel, excluding volunteers and alternative providers who also actively work with the nonprofit. The goal is “to attend to those in need by linking them to individuals in our society best equipped to respond effectively.”
But nonprofit organizations are just one example of the many efforts being made towards improving life for returning veterans and their families. Hearings such as 2014’s Defining and Improving Success for Student Veterans, are happening on a regular basis. And The Veteran’s Benefits Act of 2010 is a piece of legislature that aims to help veterans find housing, go back to school, engage in work study programs, get access to job training services, open up small businesses, and have access to many other resources. The idea is to help provide them with hope and tools for a better future, rather than allowing the men and women who served our country become it’s most neglected citizens.
It’s important to realize that certain media outlets are limited to broadcasting stories that elicit the strongest reactions from their audiences. Usually that means focusing on what yet has to be achieved, rather than what has already been accomplished on the behalf of veterans. And while there is a lot to do still, the quality of services and access to them is steadily improving.
By U.S. Navy photo by Senior Chief Mass Communication Specialist Gary Ward [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons