As we celebrate Memorial Day, we take a moment out of our lives to remember and honor those who serve our country. These people have dedicated their time and lives to ensuring our freedom. Some lose their lives or spend many months away from their families. Many others come back from service forever changed because of injury or substance abuse and mental health disorders. We should be doing all we can to help our service men and women recover from these serious issues.
Most of us know the dangers soldiers face when they enter the military. Not only do they dedicate time serving away from their families, but they put their lives at risk. For those that make it home from combat safely, there is the increased risk for mental health disorders and substance abuse. Brain injuries and traumatic experiences are most often to blame. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a serious disorder that stems from experiencing a distressing event such as war. It causes the person to be plagued with anxiety and flashbacks that can last years.
Our soldiers also return from service with possible physical injuries and with lasting mental disorders, and then they are expected to jump back into society. Transitioning back to living at home and being a father, mother, sister, or brother again can be difficult. Many service men and women struggle with it.
The solution many military personnel turn to is substance abuse. It is a way for them to deal with the pain and uncertainty that they feel. Many soldiers binge drink because they don’t know how to live their life again. Others do drugs to forget the things they’ve been through. The result is that our soldiers are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol than the general public. A statistic coming out of Arizona last week helped draw attention to the problem. It said that drug and alcohol abuse is four times more common in veterans coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan than the general public and veterans from other wars.(1) Many veterans feel there is no other way to get relief than to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol.
We might think that these people just need to get treatment and therapy for all the things that are bothering them. But many do not seek help when they should because of embarrassment or denial. Others that do want help are stuck trying to wade through red tape and restrictions on benefits through the military.
This Memorial Day, as we remember our service men and women, let’s not assume their struggle is over just because they are home. Encourage anyone you know who needs help to find it. SAMHSA has a web page of links that can help military personnel and their families with substance abuse and mental health problems.
This article was written by Bethany Winkel
Joining the TSN online family in 2008, Bethany has used her skills as a writer to reach many people through her blog. Always eager to be a help to others, she is pleased to see her writing become a source of information, encouragement, and hope for those impacted by substance abuse. Bethany is happy to be involved with an organization that is making a difference in the lives of others. Bethany has also held the position of development coordinator for a nonprofit youth center for the past 6 years. With her expertise in grant writing, Bethany has raised over $1 million for programming that benefits at-risk youth. The happy mother of 4 young children, Bethany juggles her writing from home with spending time with her family. If her hours of research for her TSN blog articles have taught her one thing, it is to be an involved parent who takes time to listen to her kids.