Five Mental Health Resources for Veterans
I have a confession to make: I have a soft spot for our military. Aside from my thoughts about any particular war, I've always supported those who have bravely served our country and had to endure things that most of us cannot imagine.
Two clinical experiences nurtured my sensitivity toward veterans and their families. The first was a summer internship at the Indianapolis Vet Center, an outpatient clinic providing mental health counseling for veterans. The second was a year-long psychology internship at the Buffalo VA Medical Center.
In Indianapolis, I met veterans who told me that after spending months in Vietnam in a perpetual state of alert to prevent being killed, coming home to a quiet job such as mopping floors was pretty difficult. Still, their families struggled to understand why they weren't thankful for such a stress-free job.
In Buffalo, my exposure to the horrors of war through the stories of those who had lived it increased tenfold. I became overwhelmed by the physical and psychological traumas our country's veterans had suffered.
Yet, I yearned to learn more. I read everything I could find about how to help veterans. I even watched every war movie I could find, which culminated in a weekend marathon that included Platoon, Casualties of War, Apocalypse Now, Full Metal Jacket and a number of beers. (Please do not try this at home!)
Needless to say, veterans hold a special place in my heart. If you are a veteran or are caring for one, here are some mental health resources to make the journey a little easier:
MentalHealth.va.gov - The official mental health resources website of the Department of Veterans Affairs includes information about mental health issues, online educational programs to strengthen mental health resilience, and avenues to get help, such as an online/telephone crisis portal.
VA Caregiver Support - This portal was also created by the Department of Veterans Affairs, with caregivers in mind. The comprehensive resource includes information about available services, tips and checklists to stay organized, and new resources for caregivers of post-9/11 veterans. They also have a toll-free support line at 1-855-260-3274.
eBenefits - Finally! The VA has created an online portal where veterans and their families can learn about available mental health benefits, keep records updated in a secure online space, and apply for and access all benefits from one site.
National Military Family Association - This is a more general site focused on improving quality of life for military families, but the association maintains a helpful page specifically on mental health issues.
National Resource Directory - "Connecting wounded warriors, service members, veterans, their families, and caregivers with those who support them," the directory includes a page focused on medical, psychological, and behavioral health conditions which links to hundreds of guides, tips, and services. If you are a veteran or care for one, thank you for what you do. Your generosity, courage, and resourcefulness will never be forgotten.