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.
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.
In times of emergencies, crisis hotlines are there to help anyone with an issue that can’t wait.
Veterans Crisis Line
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.
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**
For situations that are less urgent, helplines provide information as well as support to those who may be struggling.
National Veterans Foundation
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
Phone number: (888) 777-4443
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline
Offers free and confidential treatment referral and information service to individuals and families struggling with mental health or substance abuse disorders
Call: 1 (800) 662-4357
Women Veteran’s Call Center
A free way to connect female veterans with representatives who can answer questions about benefits, eligibility, and services specifically for female veterans.
Monday - Friday; 8-10 p.m ET
Saturday 8-6:30 p.m. ET
Call: 1 (855) 829-6636
Text: 1 (855) 829-6636
Vet Center Call Center
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.
Call: 1 (877) 927-8387
Vets for Warriors
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.
Call: 1 (855) 838-8255
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
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.
Give an Hour
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.
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.
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
VA Health Benefits Hotline
Call: (877) 222-8387
Hours: Monday - Friday 8-8 p.m. E
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.