Because of the stressors, challenges and situations people in the military face, it’s not uncommon for service members to leave the military with mental health disorders or to develop them after transitioning to civilian life. Seeking treatment is often the best course of action to promote mental health and a peaceful life as a civilian.
Common mental health concerns for veterans
Veterans are at higher risk for developing mental health disorders because of their time in the military. Veterans who were stationed in combat zones, sustained physical injury or a traumatic brain injury have the highest risk of developing a mental health disorder. Non-combat veterans can also develop mental health disorders, sustain moral injury and experience trauma.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is one of the most common mental health concerns veterans face. Whether or not a veteran develops symptoms of PTSD depends on several factors, though those who were in active combat are three times more likely to develop PTSD than those who were not.
PTSD development is also due to other factors including:
- Where the war was fought
- What kind of enemy was faced
- The politics over which the conflict arose
- If an individual was seriously injured
- If an individual lost a friend or colleague in combat
According to the VA, 7 out of 100 veterans have suffered PTSD at some point in their lives, with women more likely than men to struggle due to their increased likelihood of experiencing military sexual trauma.
Additionally, of those who served in the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, up to 30 percent of veterans have screened positive for PTSD. Unfortunately, less than a third of veterans are receiving the proper mental health treatment for managing PTSD and its symptoms.
Alcohol use disorder
The National Institute on Drug Abuse states that “sixty-five percent of veterans who enter a treatment program report alcohol as the substance they most frequently misuse, which is almost double that of the general population.” Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is one of the most common substance use disorders in the military.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse:
- Veteran men are more likely to develop an AUD than veteran women
- Heavy drinking is more common among military members than non-military populations, meaning alcohol is prevalent in military culture and may predispose individuals to developing habits of misuse
- Over 60 percent of veterans with PTSD also struggled with AUD, meaning those with PTSD symptoms are at greater risk of misusing alcohol
- The stresses of deployment and the emotions that come with being far from home in an unpredictable combat zone may lead to self-medicating through substance use
Because of its prevalence, it is important for those who battle alcohol misuse to seek the proper treatment, especially if AUD presents with a co-occurring disorder.
A co-occurring disorder happens when two or more simultaneous disorders are present and diagnosable in one person, such as having a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder. One disorder often causes the manifestation of the other, as is commonly seen in veterans with PTSD who may attempt to cope with unpleasant symptoms through substance use.
According to the Journal of Alcohol Research, “In national studies, 55 to 68 percent of veterans with probable PTSD, compared with 40 to 55 percent of veterans without PTSD, showed evidence of having AUD … A review of VA electronic medical records indicated that 63 percent of veterans with AUD and 76 percent of veterans with comorbid AUD and drug use disorder also had a PTSD diagnosis.”
Mental health resources for veterans
Half of military personnel have reported that they believe seeking help for mental health issues would negatively affect their military career, and, of those who do seek treatment, even fewer are receiving help from evidence-based practices. In other words, not only does mental health care receive little notice amongst service members, but it does little to benefit those who do take notice.
This is why it is crucial to seek out a treatment facility that is evidence-based and to tap into the benefits offered through programs like the Veterans Affairs Community Care Network (VA-CCN).
While the VA can be challenging to navigate, the VA-CCN in itself is a group of pre-approved mental health treatment facilities that accept veteran benefits for behavioral healthcare, allowing more convenient and timely access to treatment. Not only are these facilities required to meet industry standards guidelines of treatment, they also offer benefits like assistance in paying for services.
Get started today
The Light Program is a proud partner of the Veterans Affairs Community Care Network and offers programs to address all kinds of mental health concerns. To get started today, contact The Light Program by calling (610) 644-6464 to speak with an admissions counselor.