‘Tis the season for giving and getting.
For many in the military, this “season” has been 10 years in the making. Now that the war in Iraq is officially over, the wishes of many loved ones across the country are coming true with the return of thousands of our brave warriors.
While their return will no doubt be joyful, our veterans face an uncertain future. Perhaps, if they remain in the military, they’ll be redeloyed to Afghanistan. If they return to civilian life, they face the prospect of searching for a good job in a bad economy. Either way, many will find themselves facing the challenge of mental health issues like depression, substance abuse or posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
If that’s not enough, there’s also the challenge of combating the stigma of mental illness. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, research indicates 10-18 percent of veterans are likely to have PTSD following their return home. While many will receive care at VA medical centers for physical care, many won’t seek treatment for mental health problems. The VA offers plenty of reasons why, including the fear of being seen as weak or of being treated differently. Stigma is the new enemy.
That’s why I was so happy to see this video clip of John Oldham, MD, MS, the president of the American Psychiatric Association and the chief of staff at The Menninger Clinic, talking about some opportunities for giving that the APA has in this battle.
There’s lots more we can give to help these veterans–Santa, hint hint–and I hope that the coming years will prove that the mental health community has served these men and women as well as they’ve served us.