Military families and mental health: Understanding the issues and available resources

From the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel

By (ARA)

Today’s service men and women are facing particularly challenging circumstances. Many soldiers have been deployed several times to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, often serving in prolonged combat operations. Army Secretary John McHugh recently told Congress that, for perhaps the first time in history, there are more than 50,000 soldiers in uniform who have had at least four deployments, and some have even served 10 or more.

The full impact of multiple deployments is still unknown. A recent study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse reveals growing trends in a range of mental health issues, as well as prescription drug and alcohol abuse, among soldiers and veterans. A 2012 report from the U.S. Army Public Health Command found that, since the start of the Iraq War in 2003, the rate of suicide among U.S. Army soldiers has increased. This coincides with a rise in other conditions including depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

“Our men and women in uniform are making the world a better place and their contributions are invaluable,” says Dr. Joseph Hullett, a Vietnam-era Marine Corp veteran and senior medical director of Clinical Strategy for OptumHealth’s behavioral health business. “But many soldiers, veterans and their families may have trouble recognizing the signs of a mental health condition or may even be afraid or embarrassed to reach out.

“A mental health condition is not a weakness and it’s nothing to be ashamed of,” says Hullett. “The good news is there is help available to support soldiers and veterans so they can enjoy a full, healthy life.”

Hullett offers military families tips for recognizing a mental health condition and knowing when it may be time to seek help:

* Signs of depression: Depression often manifests itself in feelings of hopelessness, lack of interest in the things you once loved, and having trouble sleeping or sleeping too much.

* Signs of anxiety: Anxiety is marked by needless worrying, indecisiveness, difficulty concentrating, irritability and physical symptoms such as sweating, heart pounding and dizziness.

* Signs of PTSD: PTSD is not limited to combat experiences. In fact, women veterans suffer disproportionately high rates. Moreover, people suffering from PTSD often don’t talk about the traumatic events. Look for:

– Intrusive memories and nightmares
– Emotional extremes
– Anxiety and guilt
– Unreasonable or disproportionate fear
– Substance abuse

“If you or a loved one is experiencing these symptoms for more than a few days and they are interfering with work or relationships, help is available,” says Hullett. “And if the problems are severe, talk to your doctor right away.”

Hullett suggests a few resources for soldiers, veterans and their families:

* The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration “Military Families” webpage (

* The National Alliance on Mental Illness Veterans’ Resource Center (; and the National Center for PTSD of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (

* The Defense Center of Excellence (DCOE) for Psychological Health’s website on military behavioral health (

* Visit website to access useful resources to help military families get connected with the right support services.

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One Response to Military families and mental health: Understanding the issues and available resources

  1. David Bean says:

    I sent this to the VA:
    Dear Mr. Steven Warren:

    Please get humans to answer the phone!

    Trying to reach help at the VA I was shunted to Cus Help. Or is it Cuss Help. or cust help….
    a business. It is fine to have a business as an option. But they have created an insurmountable maze.

    Please get humans to answer the phone!

    If one is suicidal, I sure hope one’s clerical aptitude is greater than mine… or it SOL.

    Hey, I am a veteran and I am fine. My friend Jim (USN) though, paid $150,000 on his house over eleven years
    and as a carpenter in a depression was all day working or looking for work to support his wife and two kids. He is upright, proud, clean, anti-drug and a very modest drinker. He live to work and he can’t find any. His wife was home praying and gradually going crazy as she kept fielding the collection calls from India in dialects she could not understand. Finally one day she broke a pulled Jim’s shotgun on him. He is a big guy, 6’5” and of steady nerve. He talked her down and then called the cops. Man, was that a mistake.
    They put her in the clink for two weeks and then threatened Jim that his wife would have a felony conviction. He had to do backflips to save the future for the mother of his children that just pulled a gun on him. They sought a no contact order, so Jim had to sleep on his sister’s floor over in Oregon, because his wife pulled a gun on him. Oh, and his tools were in the house with the crazy wife, where he was forbidden to go.

    He is a hell of a good carpenter, and a good father too, his daughter is valedictorian and varsity sports, yet his clerical aptitude is worse than mine , and I am a lost puppy in this rats nest of which is where for what when by who which is actually YOUR JOB. It confuses me, and I am not as close to the edge as Jim.

    One thing I know. Jim will never call the “special” number. He if far too proud.
    Jim is not the only proud veteran who would not call a mental health line. Pride is instilled in the military.
    Please get humans to answer the phone!

    1,2,3,4 Wawff?

    “Please stay on the line, your call is important to us.”
    “Please stay on the line, your call is important to us.”
    “Please stay on the line, your call is important to us.”

    How many times do you need a computer to say your call is important before you get the message? The whole VA phone system ought to be peopled by human beings.

    I do not care how many counselors of 1,600, that you hired. If they are behind this wall of confusion, a maze that no worried father or wild eyed veteran will find. Then that would be another $150 million poorly spent.
    About a day and a half of war spending …….. wasted.

    I repeat: Please get humans to answer the phone!

    Department Name(s) Toll Free Number(s)
    VA Benefits:
    Death Pension
    Dependency Indemnity Compensation
    Direct Deposit
    Directions to VA Benefits Regional Offices
    Disability Compensation
    Disability Pension
    Home Loan Guaranty
    Medical Care
    Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment
    Beneficiaries in receipt of Pension Benefits 1-877-294-6380
    Debt Management Center (Collection of Non-Medical Debts) 1-800-827-0648
    Children of Women Vietnam Veterans (CWVV)
    Foreign Medical Program (FMP)
    Spina Bifida Health Care Program
    1-877-345-8179 (or)
    Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA)
    CHAMPVA In-House Treatment Initiative (CITI)
    Education (GI Bill) 1-888-442-4551
    Health Care Benefits 1-877-222-8387
    Income Verification and Means Testing 1-800-929-8387
    Life Insurance:
    Service members and/or Veterans Group Life Insurance Program
    All other VA Life Insurance Programs
    Mammography Helpline 1-888-492-7844
    Meds by Mail 1-888-385-0235 (or)
    Special Issues – Gulf War/Agent Orange/Project Shad/Mustard Agents and
    Lewisite/Ionizing Radiation 1-800-749-8387
    Status of Headstones and Markers 1-800-697-6947
    Telecommunications Device for the Deaf (TDD) 1-800-829-4833
    For health care services, contact your nearest VA medical facility. To locate all VA facilities, click on Find a VA Facility.

    If you were going nuts, and wanted to kill yourself….. would you be there yet?

    Please get humans to answer the phone.