This last weekend was Memorial Day, and as we remember the brave men and women who lost their lives protecting our freedom, it is important to also remember our brothers and sisters who have returned home.
According to RAND Center For Military Health Policy Research, 1.64 million U.S. troops have deployed to support operations in Iraq and Afghanistan since October 2001. Of those who have returned home, 31% have reported having a mental health condition, PTSD, a traumatic brain injury, or a combination of the three.
Over the years, the availability of mental health services for veterans has increased drastically as we understand more about the importance of mental health care, yet there are still so many veterans who don’t seek help. According to the RAND survey, vets listed five main reasons for not seeking help, even when access is available to them. They are as follows:
- Prescribed medications may have too many side effects
- It could harm my career
- I could be denied a security clearance
- My family or friends are more helpful than a mental health professional
- My coworkers would be less confident in me if they found out I get help for my mental health
These are not the only reasons some vets do not seek help. Some say that there is a long wait for care at VA health facilities or that they don’t have a facility near them, others say that they are embarrassed about service-related mental health problems or fear they will be seen as weak.52
Why Peer Support Is Different
We want to address the five reasons listed above that vets state for not seeking help, and how Peer Support Central can offer a new kind of mental health care. Prescribed medications can have negative side effects, and according to studies, about 25% of returning veterans show signs of substance abuse, meaning medication may not be the safest option.
According to the DOD, mental health conditions and security clearances are not mutually exclusive. Seeking help for mental health will not disqualify you from your security clearance, but untreated mental health issues that result in poor judgement, unreliability, untrustworthiness, or dysfunctional behavior might. For that reason, it is more important to seek help for a mental health concern than try to hide it, which could result in unintentionally harming others or losing your clearance anyways.
The fourth reason vets listed for not seeking help is that their friends and family provide more help than a therapist. While maintaining relationships and being open with friends and family is important, Peer Support offers similar help by trained professionals. Our specialists are your peers – other people who have experienced the same high-intensity situations that you have. You know that you won’t be seen as weak with Peer Support Central, because you’ll be counseled and trained by someone who understands first-hand what you have been through, who is empathetic, and who can serve as a role model who benefits from the session as much as you do. This isn’t an unbalanced doctor-patient relationship. Peer support is an equal playing field where you can confidentially seek help.
Veterans Can Benefit From Peer Support
If you are a veteran who wants help for mental health conditions that resulted from your service, or if you want to provide preventative care for your team, contact Peer Support Central today to find out how peer support can help. By providing specialized care from veterans to veterans or active military personnel, we aim to destigmatize mental health conditions within the military, and give vets access to vital mental health care.