Mental health for service members is essential. Coming home to a life torn apart by politics, the coronavirus, and protests can be stressful. Trying to readjust to civilian life presents difficulties of its own. Regardless, if military individuals are transitioning out of the service or coming home after a tour, the fact is that talking with those who haven’t seen or experienced what they have is hard. Mental health services are necessary, but some military personnel seeking mental health have a difficult time.
Mental health treatment continues to carry a stigma. Military personnel can hesitate to seek help because they feel shame, embarrassment, or a fear of ruining their career. Military Medicine describes the reason military men and women are hesitant to seek mental health treatment as:
- Military health and mental health services do not fully meet the complex needs of active duty service members. Military providers must balance obligations both to patients and to the military command. Due to this “double agency,” problems of trust and confidentiality become barriers to care. Increasing recognition of conflicting obligations has led to re-examinations of professional ethics in the military. Dealing with suicide or suicidality has become a significant source of burnout for military health professionals. Mental health professionals also address mass casualty events and wounded or injured children. Other barriers include stigma, a negative impact of seeking care on one’s military career, beliefs that care would not be useful, and lack of services in specific geographic regions.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness:
- The Department of Defense acknowledges that untreated mental health conditions pose a more significant safety threat than mental health conditions for which you’re seeking treatment.
- Under 2014 rules, talking to a doctor about your concerns, asking if you need a diagnosis, or seeking treatment does not affect your career. If your doctor needs to disclose your condition, your career is not at risk from this disclosure.
- Besides, with changes to security clearance procedures, you no longer risk losing clearance by consulting a doctor. If you seek help for combat-related issues or receive marital counseling, you do not have to worry about “question 21” regarding treatment for mental or emotional conditions.
Disclosing your mental health issues and seeking treatment is to your benefit. There are dangers to not revealing your mental health. Military Medicine also reports:
- Service members exhibit high rates of depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), alcohol, other substance use disorders, behavioral problems, and adverse consequences of military sexual trauma. The mental health consequences of military service manifest themselves most dramatically in high rates of suicide, recently averaging 20 per day among veterans and over 1 per day among active-duty military personnel; more active-duty personnel have been dying from suicide than from combat.
Mental Health Concerns
Learning how to recognize mental health issues takes time. Often, especially when deployed, your mental health status is not a priority. However, even when deployed, it is essential to take care of yourself. Knowing what some of the mental health issues those in the military face and their causes is a step towards seeking treatment. The National Alliance on Mental Health discusses these three primary mental health issues:
- Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): Traumatic events, such as military combat, assault, disasters, or sexual assault, can have long-lasting adverse effects such as trouble sleeping, anger, nightmares, jumpy, and alcohol and drug abuse. When these troubles don’t go away, it could be PTSD. The 2014 JAMA Psychiatry study found the rate of PTSD to be 15 times higher than civilians.
- Depression: More than just experiencing sadness, depression doesn’t mean you are weak, nor is it something that you can simply “just get over.” 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): A traumatic brain injury is usually the result of a significant blow to the head or body. Symptoms can include headaches, fatigue or drowsiness, memory problems, and mood changes and mood swings.
If you recognize any of the signs or symptoms of these mental health concerns, seek help. Who can you turn to for help?
- Therapists or counselors – many treatment providers, know and understand the difficulties you are going through
- Primary Care Providers – if you are unsure of your mental health status or need to find out who to talk to your doctor is an excellent person to provide answers
- Fellow military personnel who volunteer to help military personnel with mental health issues
- Group sessions designed to address the needs of service members
Transitioning from military life to civilian life presents new opportunities and new situations. Military life is different from private life. The skills you learned and needed in the military aren’t always useful in civilian life. You can transition from military life and find you need new skills for a job. Military life provides a rigid structure and sometimes that structure doesn’t exist in civilian life.
When you are in the military, you meet new people, make friends, and have shared experiences. These friendships and experiences can be challenging to replicate in civilian life. Finding a group or volunteering with those who were in the military can help you in the transition from military life.
Prepare yourself for questions and thoughts from those who didn’t serve. Some may want to know what you saw and experienced while others can needlessly express their opinions. You don’t need to answer questions or react to rude ideas.
Seeking mental health treatment while you are in the military or are a veteran may be right for you. Speaking with someone who will listen, help you build a treatment plan, and connect you with veterans’ support groups provides you with ways to process everything you experienced. Reaching out to others is a sign of strength. Transitioning from one lifestyle to another is filled with challenges. Take your time, be gentle with yourself, and reach out for help if you need it. There is help that is accessible, safe, and private. Mental health treatment during or after military service will make you stronger. If you are in the military and worry about continuity of care because of base changes, look for a treatment center that provides centers near your base. Achieve Concierge is proud to help those in the service. We have people available 24/7 to guide you in your questions. Achieve Concierge also has treatment centers in California, Alaska, and Oregon. For more information, contact us at (619) 393-5871.