November is the month we honor the brave men and women who have served in our Armed Forces. Often experiences they have while serving our country can result in mental health challenges when they return home.
The Erie County Anti-Stigma Coalition is working to change public perceptions about mental illness for veterans and others and member organizations stand ready to provide essential mental health services.
Max Donatelli, Erie County Anti-Stigma Coalition chair and a veteran who served in Vietnam, reports that many veterans are afraid to admit they need help.
“It’s difficult to get veterans to discuss what they experienced while serving and to identify mental health challenges they experience,” he said. “Many veterans just don’t seek help because they are afraid to admit they need help. By reducing stigma associated with mental illness, we can encourage them to get the help they need and recover.”
According to Donatelli, PTSD can take many forms and can encompass a variety of mental health challenges. The earlier treatment can occur, the better. He explained that because of the stigma, many warning signs get overlooked. This is why helping spouses gain awareness of where to get support can be a first step.
Legal assistance can be found for veterans who may have committed non-violent offenses through the Buffalo Veterans Treatment Court. WNY Heroes offers a variety of support including K-9 therapy. Every veteran’s experience is different so support from the agencies mentioned, Veterans One-Stop, Veterans Administration or from a private clinic.
“Help is available and recovery is possible is the message we want to get out,” Donatelli said. “It is okay for a veteran to share with those that are close to them they are experiencing some kind of emotional or dysfunction in their lives.”
According to statics provided by the Veterans One-Stop Center of WNY, 16 percent of veterans in New York State suffer from probable post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and 16 percent have major depressive disorder (MDD). Veterans One-Stop, a non-profit agency providing supportive services to veterans and their families, also reports that 20 percent of veterans desire mental health services but so not obtain treatment.
Resources for Veterans:
Veterans Crisis Hotline: 1-800-273-8255, Press 1
or click here to chat online with a counselor
Crisis Services Emergency Outreach 24 Hour Hotline: 716-834-3131
Veterans One-Stop Center of WNY: 716-898-0110 & www.vocwny.org
Top six barriers to treatment for mental health issues faced by active duty service members and veterans:
- Personal embarrassment about service-related mental disabilities
- Long wait times to receive mental health treatment
- Shame over needing to seek mental health treatment
- Fear of being seen as weak
- Stigma associated with mental health issues
- A lack of understanding or lack of awareness about mental health problems and treatment options
** From USGAO and other sources
Three primary mental health concerns experienced by members of the military and veterans.
- Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Traumatic events, such as military combat can have long-lasting negative effects such as trouble sleeping, anger, nightmares, being jumpy and alcohol and drug abuse. Psychiatry study found the rate of PTSD to be 15 times higher than civilians.
- Depression. Depression interferes with daily life and normal functioning and may require treatment. The 2014 JAMA Psychiatry study found the rate of depression to be five times higher than civilians.
- Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Symptoms can include headaches, fatigue or drowsiness, memory problems and mood changes and mood swings.
** From the 2014 study in JAMA Psychiatry.