Many veterans struggling with substance use disorders and mental health issues. Memorial Day is a time to honor those who have died in the nation’s wars. It should also help us recognize those who have served and are struggling with mental health and substance use problems.
In Indiana, it’s estimated there are over 400,000 veterans. National stats have shown that one in four struggle with illicit drug use, and one in four veterans have a serious mental illness. Addictions and mental health issues can develop during their time in the military or when they have returned to civilian life.
Knowing what to look for and being prepared to offer help is a good idea. These men and women have done so much for this country; the least we can do is offer a helping hand.
“There is no simple answer to why veterans struggle with substance use. Yet, there is a correlation between how different civilian life is from a military lifestyle. In addition to the physical and psychological trauma they experience,” said Michael Leach of Addicted.org.
There are many reasons why these problems occur. There can be the initial difficulty of adjusting to civilian life. This can include financial hardship, difficulty finding employment, or accessing benefits. Mental and emotional health problems also develop, as many veterans are at a high risk of experiencing these problems.
Countless veterans struggle with untreated trauma, directly impacting all areas of their lives. On top of this, there are barriers to accessing treatment. This can include cost, stigma, cooccurring disorders, inadequate funding, and limited access to rural locations.
It may seem like a struggle to overcome some of these barriers, but resources exist. Initially, the VA Facility locator can help veterans access a network of providers. Other options can include the following:
• Locally, there is the Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs. INvets is a non-profit organization in Indiana helping former service members transition to civilian life.
• Financially, families can consider combining VA benefits with other forms of insurance to reduce costs. This can include private insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid.
• SAMHSA provides lists of substance use treatment centers and mental health services specifically for veterans.
• There are assistance programs for homeless veterans, cush as VA-Supportive Housing, Homeless Veterans Community Employment Services, or Community Resource and Referrals Centers, all operated through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
• Important phone numbers are the Veterans Crisis Line 1-800-273-8255 and the Lifeline for Vets, 1-888- 777-4443.
The sacrifices required by military life can leave veterans facing significant challenges. This Memorial Day, we should take a moment to remember those we have lost and take time to help those in need.
Veronica Raussin is a Community Outreach Coordinator for Addicted.org, passionate about spreading awareness of the risks and dangers of alcohol & drug use.
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