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Resources for Veterans Looking to Improve their Mental Health

By 
Kaitlyn Nuebel

Most of us know that serving in the U.S. military can have lasting effects that remain long after someone has retired. The life threatening events experienced in military combat can change a person’s life, taking a serious toll on their mental health.

Veterans are 15 times more likely to struggle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder than other civilians. In fact, it’s estimated that after 9/11 between 11 and 20 percent of veterans struggled with PTSD upon returning home. 

In addition to PTSD, many veterans also experience depression. In 2008, it was estimated that about one in every three veterans struggled with some symptoms of depression, with one in five of them struggling with severe symptoms of depression. To make matters even worse, roughly 20 veterans commit suicide every day. 

A diagram showing the statistics of veterans who struggle with their mental health.
Veterans returning from the service may no longer be in combat, but the battle isn’t over. Studies show that veterans are significantly more likely than other civilians to struggle with mental illness, especially depression and PTSD. Image courtesy of Psychiatric Times.

While there are several ways to treat mental illness, it isn’t as easy as it sounds for veterans to receive this help. Stigmas around mental health, the lack of accessibility and awareness, and logistical issues, just to name a few, may prevent veterans from getting treatment they could benefit from. 

However, education surrounding mental health as well as information about how to seek help is the first step in limiting the number of veterans silently struggling with mental illness. We’ve compiled a list of resources for veterans who are looking to improve their mental health. 

Crisis Hotlines

In times of emergencies, crisis hotlines are there to help anyone with an issue that can’t wait.

Veterans Crisis Line

Purpose

Offers free and confidential support to anyone, regardless of whether they are registered with Veteran Affairs or enrolled in Veteran Affairs Health Care. Responders are specially trained to help anyone of any age and circumstance.

Hours

24/7

Contact

Call: 1 (800) 273-8255 **This number takes you to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline. Press 1 to be connected with the Veteran’s Crisis Line**

Online Chat

Text: 838255

Helplines

For situations that are less urgent, helplines provide information as well as support to those who may be struggling. 

National Veterans Foundation

Purpose

A free confidential vet-to-vet helpline that offers crisis management, as well as referral and information needs to all U.S. veterans and their families

Hours

24/7

Contact

Phone number: (888) 777-4443

Request assistance online

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline

Purpose

Offers free and confidential treatment referral and information service to individuals and families struggling with mental health or substance abuse disorders

Hours

24/7

Contact

Call: 1 (800) 662-4357

Visit their website

A member of the military service sitting down, clutching their cap in their hands.
While conversations about mental health are occurring more now than ever before, it isn’t always easy for veterans to receive help with their mental health. The stigma that still surrounds mental health in addition to a lack of accessibility and logistical issues often prevent veterans from receiving the support they need. Helplines and crisis lines work to resolve these issues by giving veterans free 24/7 support.

Women Veteran’s Call Center

Purpose

A free way to connect female veterans with representatives who can answer questions about benefits, eligibility, and services specifically for female veterans.   

Hours

Monday - Friday; 8-10 p.m ET

Saturday 8-6:30 p.m. ET

Contact

Call: 1 (855) 829-6636

Text: 1 (855) 829-6636

Online chat

Vet Center Call Center

Purpose

A free and confidential call center where combat veterans and their families can speak to other veterans or family members of veterans about their experiences in the military and difficulty adjusting to civilian life. 

Hours

24/7

Contact

Call: 1 (877) 927-8387

Two members of the military have the words "reach out a hand" written on their palms.
Veterans may find it difficult to talk about their experiences and emotions regarding their time in the service. In this case, helplines that put veterans in contact with other veterans or family members of veterans, like the Vet Center Call Center, ensure that the person on the other end of the phone understands what callers are going through. Image courtesy of Military.

Vets for Warriors

Purpose

Proves all veterans and members of the military community with a peer to peer support network that allows them to talk to someone who understands their life experiences and can help them navigate any life challenges they may face.

Hours

24/7

Contact

Call: 1 (855) 838-8255

Online chat

Submit a message online

Counseling

For those looking for more frequent or recurring help, therapy is a great option. Here are some resources for veterans who are looking to pursue long term treatment.

Homecoming for Veterans

Purpose

Homecoming for Veterans offers free neurofeedback treatment for veterans suffering from PTSD. Their website provides a network of clinicians from all over the country who are willing to offer their services to veterans for a minimum of 20 sessions at no charge. 

Neurofeedback treatment is an emerging non-invasive type of treatment for PTSD and substance abuse that uses an electroencephalogram to gather information that is then used to train brain function. Neurofeedback treatment has successfully and rapidly mitigated PTSD symptoms in veterans, including sleep problems, irritability, rage, pain, and cognitive deficits. 

Contact

Call:

Visit their website

Ask for online assistance

Give an Hour

Purpose

Provides a national network of licensed mental health providers so active duty, National Guard and Reserve, and veterans can receive free and confidential counseling. The volunteer mental health professionals in the Give an Hour network can provide veterans help with anxiety, depression, substance abuse, PTSD, as well as other mental health issues. 

Contact

Submit a question online

Email: info@giveanhour.org

Search for a provider online

A member of the military service sits down to talk with a therpaist.

For veterans who are looking for long-term treatment for their mental health, therapy is a great option, since not all issues can be resolved by a hotline phone call alone. Fortunately, there are programs out there that provide free counseling to veterans in need.  Image courtesy of Harmony Bay Wellness. 

TMS Therapy

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) therapy combats mental illnesses like depression and PTSD by stimulating the brain with magnetic pulses. What makes TMS therapy stand out from other types of treatments for mental illness is that it is a noninvasive procedure that has, unlike taking medication, very few side effects and involves almost no pain. 

In addition, TMS therapy has a high success rate with veterans--a study conducted by the U.S. Department of  Veteran Affairs showed that, when compared to veterans who were not treated with TMS therapy, the 20 veterans that did use TMS therapy as a form of treatment showed improvement with both core PTSD symptoms as well as symptoms related to depression  

Often, those who turn to TMS therapy are those who did not see effective results with traditional talk therapy or medication and still have symptoms of depression or other types of mental illness. 

Even when more common forms of treatment prove unsuccessful, it’s still crucial that those suffering from PTSD and depression receive help, as symptoms of depression or PTSD that are left untreated can lead to self-destructive behaviors like substance or suicide. TMS therapy is a great option for veterans who either had little success with other forms of treatment or prefer to go another route instead.

Veteran Affairs Mental Health Services

In addition to some of the resources listed above, the U.S. Departments of Veteran Affairs provides extensive information about mental health and ways that Veterans can receive treatment and help.

Mental health information

For those who are not sure about where they should start, the VA’s website has a whole section dedicated to educating people about specific mental health illnesses as well as a breakdown of steps and treatments to make getting help easier. 

In addition, the VA has put together a page on their website devoted to helping veterans manage stress and anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Toll free numbers

MyVA411 main information line

Call: (800) 698-2411

Hours: 24/7

VA Health Benefits Hotline

Call: (877) 222-8387

Hours: Monday - Friday 8-8 p.m. E

VA Locations

Find a VA location near you

When not treated, mental illness can significantly impact the course of a person’s life. This is especially the case with veterans, who often struggle with PTSD and depression after returning home from the service. While the impacts of these illnesses can be devastating and debilitating, the good news is that it doesn’t have to stay that way forever. Help is out there—it’s just a phone call away.

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