Information for this article was pulled from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website. If you or a loved one is a U.S. military veteran, explore further physical and mental health resources here.

Members of the United States Armed Forces sacrifice quite a bit during their years of service. Veterans affairs is always a hot button topic in the United States. As many have pointed out, there is a gulf between the respect veterans deserve and their treatment once they retire. Read on to learn about veteran mental health, more particularly, common mental health issues in veterans.

Mental Health Treatment For Veterans

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs treated 2.1 million veterans for the five year period of 2006-2010. Yet the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration states that only 50% of veterans received the necessary mental health treatment in that period. This led to the federal government establishing the Interagency Task Force on Military Mental Health in August, 2012.

There are a few reasons why ex-military members struggle to connect to mental health resources. These reasons are identified by the Government Accountability Office, as well as independent psychology studies.

  • The military has increasingly equal gender opportunity but is still predominantly male. Many male veterans experience a perceived shame for seeking mental health assistance. In addition to the shame, many male veterans also feel weak or less masculine for seeking mental health help.
  • Long wait times to receive treatment.
  • Logistical issues in accessing treatment.
  • Distrust that the V.A. mental health treatment options.
  • Lack of funds to seek mental health options outside of V.A.

Common Issues With Veterans’ Mental Health

Substance Abuse

As many as a quarter of people who experience overseas deployment have a substance abuse issue. Many people think of substance abuse as a problem with hard drugs. However, a majority of substance abuse issues are actually with alcohol, followed closely by prescription drugs.

Prescription drug addiction is an issue in general in the United States right now. Veterans, however, are at a higher risk of exposure to addictive pain meds to the increased risk of injury while deployed.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD is the brain’s response to a severe trauma, such as combat situations. PTSD causes the sufferer to relive the traumatic event and to experience panic attacks triggered by situations similar to the event. For example, a veteran who went through a traumatic event involving an IED shouldn’t be around fireworks going off. PTSD symptoms also align closely with anxiety and depression.

Anxiety & Depression

Anxiety and depression, while common in the general population of civilians, is even more prevalent in veterans. The two have a variety of symptoms, which we have explored in the past. Psychologists link depression to past events and anxiety to worry about the future.