As we honored our U.S. veterans on Saturday, I was struck that we haven’t made a lot of progress in mental health care for our veterans. We continue to read horrifying reports about suicide and unmet mental health needs among veterans. Studies indicate that for the first year after deployment, the risk of suicide is almost twice that of the general population. In addition, 30 percent of deployed active duty and reserve military have mental health problems requiring treatment. Of these returning veterans, only half receive any mental health treatment.
I’ve written about the precursors to suicide in our veteran population in the past. Depression, anxiety, and PTSD are among them. Prior suicide attempts place veterans at increased risk. Drug addiction complicates the picture. As a country and as a community, we have to do a better job identifying our veterans’ mental health needs before the tragedy of suicide impacts their families and communities forever. How can we accomplish this? Veterans Affairs officials say preventing suicide is the VA’s top priority. But how can we also help in our communities?
Recognition of mental health issues in community members before those issues become tragic should be high priority in our state. The state has received federal funding to provide Mental Health First Aid training to citizens across the state. We need to make sure this training gets to the communities where veterans live, work, worship and play.
As always, the Highland companies are here to help veterans and their families who are experiencing mental health issues. Call us or come in for services. Or, if you need help — or someone you know needs help – please call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. For veterans, immediate help is available at Veterans Crisis Line or by calling the Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255. On the website, you can locate resources in your own community.
So for veterans out there and in our companies, thank you for your service and sacrifice so that we might live in the land of the free and the home of the brave. As we honor veterans, let’s also invest in their wellbeing, including their mental health. We have to do better for those who have served our country. They deserve our investment.