It’s not exactly a secret that the medical needs of former servicemen largely exceed those of the general population. This is true both in terms of physical and mental health. These individuals are more likely to struggle with depression, anxiety, panic disorders, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, along with being more likely to have traumatic brain injury as a result of combat or training. Veteran mental health services are essential to the process of helping individuals not only heal from their service to their country, but ideally to help them lead healthy, happy, productive lives while getting jobs that they are happy with and sustaining relationships that last them a lifetime. But there are a number barriers in place that institutions like the Veteran’s Medical Center in Los Angeles face and these prevent many former servicemen from getting the help they need.
Barriers to Treatment
There are numerous barriers that former servicemen face to get the mental health services that they need. Some of these are self-inflicted, while others are the result of bureaucracy and funding. For instance, the stigma attached with receiving treatment for mental health prevents many of those that could benefit from treatment from seeking it out. Many feel that seeking mental health treatment is a sign of weakness and are ashamed for having these sorts of problems. In general, there is a lack of awareness about mental health problems, their causes, the treatment, and the effectiveness of treatment.
In addition wait times and access to treatment often discourage those that are seeking treatment from carrying through with the effort. There are also logistical problems such as transportation that stand in the way of many individuals receiving the benefits they need.
Drug and Alcohol Abuse
One problem that exacerbates the situation is that many individuals that are afflicted with these disorders have a tendency to medicate themselves using drugs and alcohol. This has a tendency to further complicate their health situation, mental and physical. Former servicemen are much more prone to suffering from substance abuse than the general population is, and it’s largely correlated to increased amount of mental health problems that they face once they’re among the civilian population.
While there is no easy remedy to this, the help that former servicemen need have an apparatus in place. It’s often a matter of getting that apparatus to work effectively, efficiently, and having the proper funding. Unfortunately, for the last several years, that has simply not been the case. As the economy has struggled, the amount of funding available has also dried up, and even now that the economy is in full recovery, there doesn’t seem to be enough funding for VA Hospitals and medical centers. Wait times continue to be long and many individuals continue not to seek out treatment. But the treatment is available, and it is effective. These conditions can be managed and lives can be restored.