BARRIERS TO TREATMENT OF MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES FOR VETERANS

Although the U.S. Government Accountability Office reports that over 2 million Veterans received mental health treatment from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs from 2006 through 2010, only 50% of returning Veterans who need mental health treatment will actually receive those services.

Barriers to treatment for mental health issues include:

  • Embarrassment about service-related mental disabilities
  • Long wait times to receive mental health treatment
  • Shame over needing to seek mental health treatment
  • Fear of being seen as weak
  • Stigma associated with mental health issues
  • A lack of understanding or lack of awareness about mental health problems and treatment options
  • Logistical problems, such as long travel distances in order to receive mental health care
  • Concerns over the veteran mental health treatment offered by the VA
  • Demographic barriers and false perceptions based on these demographics such as age or genderIt is much more likely that Veterans seeking mental health treatments will look for that care outside the VA system. In 2005, 22% of Veterans went for help in the private sector rather than getting help from the VA.

(From the National Veterans Foundation)

PTSD & Sleep

If you have PTSD, you likely also have sleep problems. Nine out of ten Veterans who have PTSD have difficulty sleeping. Four out of ten Veterans have insomnia.

PTSD sleep problems include:

  • Hyperarousal
  • Intrusive memories
  • Excessive worrying
  • Nightmares that disrupt sleep

The #1 recommended treatment for PTSD-related insomnia is not sleep medication. It is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).   CBT for insomnia is a talk-therapy, proven to work. CBT helps you learn to modify the thoughts and habits that affect your sleep. 70% to 80% of those treated achieve better sleep.

Sleep problems often go hand-in-hand with PTSD, but Cognitive Behavioral Therapy works!

(Adapted from http://www.PTSD.va.gov)

 

HomeFront strong

If you are a spouse or partner of a Post-911 service member or veteran, you are eligible to participate in a web-based program for free. This program is designed especially for military/veteran spouses or partners and focuses on developing skills to promote healthy relationships and strategies for self-care and coping. The program is offered at no cost, and participants can receive up to $140 for completing evaluations of the program.

The program lasts 8 weeks and offers evidence-based strategies to help spouses reduce stress and social isolation, build positive coping skills, change negative thinking, and learn new approaches to self-care. Studies show that participants of the program show decreased stress, depression, and anxiety, along with improvement in coping, positive thinking, and life satisfaction.

For more information, call 734.998.2205, or go to: homefrontstrong@umich.edu. On Facebook: HomeFront Strong.

Moral Dilemma

Along with PTSD comes a new diagnosis for many Veterans: moral injury. It is similar to PTSD in that the emotional wounds experienced by trauma (often killing someone in self-defense or by accident), are difficult to heal. It differs in that the traditional treatments for PTSD often don’t work with moral injury.

As with PTSD, Veterans injured by a moral wound may experience emotional agony, anger, depression, anxiety, nightmares, insomnia and substance abuse with drugs or alcohol. They may also embrace a self-destructive lifestyle as a result. In addition, with moral injury, the Veteran has to deal with guilt, grief, shame, regret, sorrow and alienation. Treatments are very different for moral injury than for PTSD.

Treatment involves “adaptive disclosure,” where Veterans are asked to share details of their trauma with an imagined compassionate person who loves them. A therapist guides the conversation in a healing manner. The Veteran is also encouraged to make amends in some way, perhaps by volunteering to help children. The goal of treatment is to find forgiveness of themselves or from others.

Moral injury may be as difficult to live with, or even more so, as PTSD. It is another invisible war wound that takes time to heal.

(Adapted from “War Wounds That Time Alone Can’t Heal” by Jane E. Brody, The New York Times, June 6, 2016).