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Mental health of veterans needs a closer look

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ChrisMental health sometimes gets overlooked in comparison to physical disease. I have overheard things like, “I am getting sick of [insert name here] being depressed all the time” OR “why doesn’t he/she just get over it?” If you ever have sat down and talked about (or experienced) mental illness, you would know that these statements are insulting. Many mental diseases alter brain chemistry, which is incredibly difficult to just “get over.”

Depression, anxiety and other mental disorders affect nearly 26.2 percent of all Americans 18 and older in a given year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

Mental disorders have a grip on a fairly large segment of the American population, especially veterans. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has been associated with veterans coming back from warfare, and has been linked to an increase in suicidal tendencies among veterans. According to a recent article published by nationaljournal.com, a shocking number of veterans are taking their own lives after returning from their tours of duty. Fifty-one percent of Iraq or Afghanistan War veterans know someone who has attempted or committed suicide. 22 veterans commit suicide every single day.

More needs to be done to preserve the mental health of our veterans. This suicide epidemic is clear-cut evidence of the lack of attention this particular issue is getting from the government.

For those who do not know what PTSD is, it is an anxiety disorder that arises from experiencing an incredibly traumatic event. It involves horrible flashbacks, nightmares and recollections of the traumatic event, often leading to depression and serious anxiety.

It is easy to see why Veterans suffer from this particular mental ailment, and the government needs to find a way to help these people who suffer from this terrible psychological disorder. According to the National Journal article mentioned above, Senator John Walsh of Montana introduced a legislation that will force the government to re-evaluate troops who have been discharged due to PTSD-related symptoms. The legislation will also extend the time frame in which veterans can receive VA (Veterans Administration) health care after they leave the service.

There is still debate where this money would come from to fund the legislation, but this is a step in the right direction.

If 22 veteran suicides a day is an accurate figure (the figure was provided by the Veteran Affairs Department), this means that 8,030 veterans are projected to take their own lives this year. There might be some hidden problems within military ranks that are causing the current suicide epidemic, but some gumption needs to be taken by the government to pinpoint the exact cause of this sad trend. These people deserve better than what is now given to them, and some drastic changes are needed.

Some have blamed “toxic leadership” within the ranks of the military as a cause of the high suicide rates among veterans. Some believe military culture is promoting mental instability, which could be true. Regardless, veterans are suffering immense psychological pain, and no one is taking notice.

Chris Chipman is a junior English major and columnist for The Vidette. Any questions or comments regarding his column can be sent to dv_cdchpm2@ilstu.edu. 

 

3 Responses

  1. Army dude

    Nice of you to take notice. I think one thing you overlooked is at the veterans administration is so bureaucratic and has such a bad system that veterans give up all hope. The people we are supposed to rely on for help tell us to take a hike or that they are unable to help. The veterans administration hospital here in DC (which should be the best because of high visibility), is the worst in the country! I drive 2 hours to Martinsburg, WV to be seen for PTSD, because DC is such a terrible place.

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  2. I Care

    I spent nearly one year as the first-ever counseling student placement at my local VA. I was ready, willing, and eager to help. The VA needs to do more than “say” that it’s desiring to hire counselors. I was there, ready to hit the ground running. I was an unpaid intern. I had immense patience with the well-known bureaucracy, for lack of a better term. Here are some tips for your communities. Are your schools and employers doing veteran outreach? Be creative. Reintegration to civilian life is something that requires “rallying the troops” of civilians.

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  3. Darryl

    Hi Chris,

    (your listed email address is getting kicked back “dv_cdchpm2@ilstu.edu”)

    I think it’s spot-on .. your last line nails it:
    “Regardless, veterans are suffering immense psychological pain, and no one is taking notice.”

    I’ve been working on a mental health solution over the last 2 years, perhaps you’d like to read a paper I had published on the topic (bottom of page) along with an app I’m working on named EVA.

    http://www.darryldiptee.com/eva.html

    Until we get to the core of the problem, it’ll be impossible to find a solution.
    – D.

    Reply

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