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Many Veterans Suffer from Mental Health Problems and Substance Abuse

Sometimes we feel helpless when it comes to acknowledging our thanks to the men and women in the armed services that have served in combat to protect our country.  We might even wonder what we can do to give our support to these troops, or how we can help them out.  One thing the government and veterans would suggest is to help find a way to end the long-term effects of war on the minds of soldiers.  One way to do this is to provide more mental health professionals to help with the issues service members deal with every day.

Mental Ailments Increasing
War veterans and those still in the service often suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), substance abuse, depression, and thoughts of suicide.  Statistics for these problems have worsened in recent years, and there are those who are pushing for solutions to these problems.

It is estimated that one third of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have mental health problems.  Many of these individuals end up turning to drugs and alcohol to silence their pain.  Returning service members often have a hard time integrating back into life in America with their families, and even those with a good support system can find themselves overcome by substance abuse and suicide.

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Reasons for mental health issues and the problems they bring include the stress of being in combat (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), survivor guilt, grief, and Traumatic Brain Injury.  All these can drive people to despair and even alter the brain.  The way to handle these issues is to get professional help.

Seeking Help
However, some worry that there is an overall attitude in the armed forces that seeking help is a bad thing, and some people are working to change that.  Senator McCaskill (MO) met with the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) this week in order to push for her initiative aimed at improving prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse.  “The notion that getting help is somehow a black mark on your service needs to be changed,” McCaskill said.

In order to assist in the recovery of veterans, IAVA wants to have mandatory screening by a mental health professional for every service member returning from combat.  They also are asking for confidentiality for those seeking treatment.  And the group wants to be approved for advanced funding by Congress, in order to plan ahead each year financially.

The army has already begun to hire additional mental health care professionals (250 more this year), and provide more education on mental health issues for soldiers.  The army has also begun a 5-year collaboration with the National Institute of Mental Health to look closely at causes of suicide such as combat, family stress, and long deployments.

Thank a soldier.  Service men and women give their service to our country.  But as a country we need to ask how we can best help our soldiers get their lives back again.

Maze, Rick Lawmaker urges drug abuse treatment for vets Monday Feb 9, 2009

Alvarez, Lizette Suicides of Soldiers Reach High of Nearly 3 Decades January 29, 2009

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