If you or a loved one is a veteran, firstly, we thank you for your service. Next, we want to acknowledge that as a veteran, you may be faced with mental health risks that civilians might not be totally familiar with. The reality is that men and women who served in the military are five times more likely to struggle with mental health issues than those who have not experienced military life.
With this in mind, we wanted to give you some suggestions about how to be mindful of mental health issues among veterans and ways you can help them improve their emotional well-being.
Statistics on Mental Health Among Veterans
Before we talk about ways to help veterans retain mental health harmony, let’s dive into the statistics first. Currently, there are 5.2 million veterans who are experiencing negative mental health conditions, and 10% – 20% of veterans struggle with PTSD each year. Moreover, 43% of veterans have said that their mental health worsened after enlisting in military service.
The truth is that compromised mental health among veterans is a real and concerning issue that needs attention. However, for a number of reasons, mental health unbalances are not reported or are left untreated. This is why we should make every effort to help veterans improve their mental health if needed, and the following tips are a few ways to start.
Help Vets Find Help
As mentioned, many veterans suffer from mental health issues and never seek treatment. The reasons for this vary from the inability to know where to start to the most basic reason – the lack of funds to obtain treatment. Given this, you can help the veteran in your life find the treatment they need and get them moving in the right direction. For instance, you can do research and find veteran resources to help veterans obtain and fund quality mental health care.
Furthermore, it’s not always the case, but older veterans struggle with maneuvering technology in an effort to find the benefits, discounts, or resources they need. Computers can be baffling for senior vets, so you can be a tremendous help by Googling for them so they can get on the path of getting the affordable, quality treatment they deserve.
Help Them Reprioritize (or Remember the Reasons They Served)
Veterans freshly out of the service often need a helping hand adjusting to civilian life. Without assistance, some veterans may not readjust their focus in healthy ways, which could lead to mental health issues. You can help a vet by reminding them of the positive things they valued and focused upon before they served. You might also remind them of the privileges they facilitated for US citizens through their service. Sometimes, a gentle word or reminder can make all the difference in shifting a vet’s mood and perspective in a more positive way.
Get Them Engaged
Sometimes, veterans can slip into unhealthy mental health patterns because they have no healthy outlets. Studies have shown that certain activities can be greatly beneficial in improving mood and lifting depression. For instance, getting out in nature is known to elevate mood, and it can provide a deeper connection for vets. Other activities such as equine therapy, gardening, journaling, meditation, or getting involved in artistic endeavors can make a significant impact on a vet’s mental well-being for the better.
Be There For Them
We can support veterans, young and old, by simply being with them and listening to them. When we demonstrate compassion and empathy to veterans, we show them that their service wasn’t for naught. Very often, helping veterans is more about showing up and being there for them than anything else. Additionally, expressing your care in various ways is a great reminder that they are not alone and therefore do not have to shoulder their pain by themselves.
We owe the veterans in our lives a great deal, and none of them should be without support if their mental health is at risk. The reality is that veterans are a part of our community that should have our full support for all they gave while in service. Therefore, we hope these suggestions on helping veterans improve mental health will inspire you to get vets the treatment and resources they need to live their best lives.