As we head into a new year, some Veterans may find themselves experiencing higher levels of sadness, loneliness, and fatigue. Often, the holiday season can trigger additional stressors, which often include family tensions, financial difficulties, and being separated from loved ones during the holidays. All of these stressors, individually, can add to the burden that a Veteran in crisis is already coping with. Or they can be the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back. Veterans need to remember that they are not alone during difficult times. Whether it’s chronic depression, or a bout of the “holiday blues,” there are a number of resources available through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
Mental health care and suicide prevention are among the VA’s top priorities year round, but they are especially important topics during and after the holiday season. The VA’s mental health programs offer information, tools and links to other resources for Veterans and their family members. The materials provided to Veterans coping with, or at risk for mental health concerns, have been proven to decrease suicide rates by more than 16%.
The VA’s mental health portal specifically offers a confidential screening tool that screens for depression, alcohol and substance abuse, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The page provides a “Provider Toolkit” that features materials to support community mental health clinicians who serve Veteran clients. There is also information about substance abuse and links for where to get help.
One of the best places for Veterans, service members, and their family members to get immediate help is the Veterans Crisis Line. The Crisis line connects service members, Veterans, family members and friends in crisis to qualified VA responders. Anyone in crisis can call at (800) 273-8255 [then press 1]; or text 838255; or utilize the online chat function to reach the help they need.
All methods are confidential, toll-free and available 24/7/365.
It is estimated that Veterans commit suicide on the average of 22 per day. But there is no reason for any Veteran to take their life, when the help they need is right at their fingertips, and so easily attained on their behalf by friends and family.
Save a life, especially your own, by knowing the resources that are available for Veterans with a history of mental health concerns, Veterans in need of a post-holiday mental health self-check, and Veterans in crisis at www.va.gov. And in the case of an emergency, by-pass the VA resources and dial emergency services (911).
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Military Connection: New Year Mental Health Check: By Debbie Gregory