Salute the Service of our Veterans and Families By Strengthening Their Support Networks
Mental Health America Encourages Help
for a Healthy Homecoming
Contact: Steve Vetzner, (703) 797-2588 or email@example.com
ALEXANDRIA, Va. (May 21, 2008)- Mental Health America is encouraging all Americans to salute the service of returning servicemen and women by strengthening support networks for our brave soldiers and their families as part of its 2008 May is Mental Health Month Connection Challenge.
Although many soldiers remain on duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, some are returning home, along with reservists and members of the National Guard. Many are facing a battle on the home front transitioning to civilian life. Of the approximately 300,000 veterans from Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom who have accessed care through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, more than 40 percent are reporting mental health concerns.
"Our nation's soldiers and veterans represent the very best our country has to offer," said David L. Shern, Ph.D., president and CEO of Mental Health America. "Many are coming home with invisible, psychological wounds that affect their family and daily life just as much as physical wounds. This Memorial Day, we are reminded of the huge sacrifices made by our servicemen and women. Let us work every day to give them the healthy homecoming they deserve."
One in five troops returning home experience Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)-distressing memories or flashbacks of traumatic events, such as combat. As many as thirty percent of soldiers who have seen three or four combat deployments have PTSD. Difficulties reported by National Guard troops and reservists are even higher. Often, these problems don't surface until months after troops return home.
These conditions have a major impact on families. Many veterans cite "connecting emotionally with family" as a major concern. The percentage of soldiers who have conflicts with family and others quadrupled after returning from combat. Living and caring for veterans with mental health concerns is also stressful and can change the way families relate to each other. This is particularly important because families play a central role in supporting people with PTSD.
You can help connect our heroes with the help and assistance they deserve:
Community-Based Support: The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs operates 207 community-based Vet Centers which provide readjustment counseling and outreach services to all veterans who served in any combat zone. Services are also available for their family members for military-related issues. Veterans have earned these benefits through their service and all are provided at no cost to the veteran or family. (A full listing and locator is available at http://www1.va.gov/directory/guide/vetcenter.asp?isFlash=0. But these problems and the number of vets seeking help are presenting new challenges for the government to provide the care veterans have earned.
Operation Healthy Reunions: Mental Health America is also proud to champion Operation Healthy Reunions, a first-of-its-kind program that provides education and helps to bust the stigma of mental health issues among soldiers, their families, and medical staff to ensure that a greater number of military families receive the prompt and high-quality care they deserve. In partnership with leading military organizations, Mental Health America distributes educational materials on such topics as reuniting with your spouse and children, adjusting after war, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A resource guide on the program and related issues can be found at http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/reunions/.
Workplace Assistance: A return to work can also be a tough transition for both the individual and the workplace. If you are a supervisor or employer of a returning service member, you can ease his or her transition by taking some simple steps:
- Create a welcoming environment and include other employees; update all employees about changes that occurred while he/she was absent; give your employees, the returning service member, and yourself time to readjust; focus on Communication, Patience, Acceptance, and Understanding.
- Know when to ask for/suggest help with issues, such as anxiety or depression, related to the transition. Encourage the individual to consult with your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or a mental health professional. For more information or referrals to local services, visit our online Frequently Asked Questions section at www.mentalhealthamerica.net/go/faqs, contact Mental Health America, or contact your local Mental Health America affiliate.
Mental Health America founded May is Mental Health Month 50 years ago to raise awareness about mental health conditions and the importance of mental health for all. This year's theme, "Get Connected," is focused on the important role social connectedness plays in maintaining and protecting mental health and wellness.
Mental Health America is the country's leading nonprofit dedicated to helping ALL people live mentally healthier lives. With our more than 320 affiliates nationwide, we represent a growing movement of Americans who promote mental wellness for the health and well-being of the nation - everyday and in times of crisis.