BY: Neighbors’ Consejo|
Those who decide to give their lives to the service of the nation, leave all their comforts aside to fulfill their patriotic conviction. However, after they leave active service many have different problems, prevalent among these affect their emotional wellbeing as a consequence of combat or other traumatic event experienced.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI  ), there are three primary mental health concerns that you may encounter serving in the military:
- Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Traumatic events, such as military combat assault, disasters or sexual assault can have long-lasting negative effects such as trouble sleeping, anger, nightmares, being jumpy and alcohol and drug abuse.
- Depression: More than just experiencing sadness, depression doesn’t mean you are weak, nor is it something that you can simply “just get over”.
- Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI): A traumatic brain injury is usually the result of significant blow to the head or body.
The National Library of Medicine (NHI  ) suggested that “approximately 14% to 16% of US service members deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq have PTSD or depression. Although these mental health concerns are highlighted, other issues like suicide, traumatic brain injury (TBI), substance abuse, and interpersonal violence can be equally harmful in this population.
On the other hand, PBS News Hour  mentions that “a 2021 study by the Cost of War  Project concluded that since 9/11, four times as many service members and veterans have died by suicide as have perished in combat. The study detailed stress factors particular to military life: “high exposure to trauma –mental, physical, moral, and sexual- stress and burnout, the influence of the military’s hegemonic masculine culture, continued access to guns, and the difficulty of reintegrating into civilian life”.
According to the Psychiatric Times  , “more than 2 million troops have already been deployed to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with no end in sight. Almost a third of all service-persons in these ongoing conflicts suffer from some clinically significant mental condition, the poster child for which is PTSD, and their complications of suicide, addition and domestic or other-directed violence.”
“The mental health consequences of military trauma are often distressing, disabling and persistent unless there are timely interventions. Symptoms of PTSD include re-experiencing the traumatic event, avoidance of thoughts of the traumatic event and people, places, or other stimuli that evoke the trauma; changes in cognitions regarding the world and one’s self; hypervigilance; irritability, concentration difficulties, and disrupted sleep; and increases in disturbing thoughts and negative feelings. PTSD is commonly associated with functional impairment, substance abuse, suicidal ideation, impulsivity and violence, as well as increased utilization of medical care.”
NAMI  gives us some important statics: “11-20% of veterans experience PTSD in a given year significantly higher than past year estimates for the general population at less 4%. Suicide rates of military service members and veterans are also at an all-time high, with deaths by suicide having increased by 25% during 2020.”
The same source recommended us 5 ways to support veterans’ mental health  :
- Understand suicide: In 2017, nearly one in every seven suicides nationally was a veteran -13.5% annually- compared with Census data that shows veterans make up about 8% of the adult population.
- Understand PTSD: Traumatic events, such as military combat, assault and disasters can have long-lasting negative effects such as trouble sleeping, anger, nightmares, being jumpy and alcohol and drug abuse.
- Understand Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI): The high rate of TBI and blast-related concussion events resulting from current combat operations directly impacts the health and safety of individual service members.
- Understand depression: Among veterans treated by the Veterans Association between 2009 and 2013, about 10% had major depressive disorder.
- Understand anxiety: Some veterans develop anxiety following severe trauma or a life-threatening event. For others, stressful life events such as transitioning from military to civilian life can cause anxiety disorders.
We will always be grateful for the services that Veterans made for the country and for this reason, organizations such as Neighbors’ Consejo  , give back with open hand for their emotional wellbeing.