High Percentages of Veterans Avoiding Mental Health Care
February 1, 2011 – There are a number of reasons why active duty soldiers and veterans avoid seeking out mental health care. This has not deterred the military from pushing active-duty soldiers to actively seek mental health care whenever they feel necessary. It is the military’s hope once the soldiers recognize the emotional, mental, and physical stresses associated with being deployed, they will be more willing to seek counseling. The fact still remains, many active-duty soldiers will not seek out the help they need.
A recent study revealed this tentative attitude exists in veterans as well. The biggest reasons most veterans need mental health care is to address depression, substance abuse, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), of which about 22% of veterans suffer. Of those veterans believed to need mental health care, only approximately 1/3 of them actually seek out help, according to the study.
The reasons given for avoiding therapy vary. For some, they fear being associated with social stigmas. Others fear reprisal from employers, as they will be viewed as different types of employees. Some voiced apprehension about the cost and value of therapy and the negative side effects of medications commonly used with PTSD patients. Still others did not seek out help from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) because they did not like the VA environment or offered treatment, or the nearest VA was just too far away.
No matter what the reason, this is a problem that needs community involvement as well as federal VA programs. Improved outreach may help alert veterans to the type of help available and the more veterans seeking help, the fewer stigmas are attached to seeking help in the first place. They went to war together, they can heal together.