Growing awareness about PTSD has led to more support for veterans than ever before. But post-traumatic stress disorder is far from the only struggle impacting our veterans today. In an attempt to manage their suffering, many veterans turn to substance abuse. And getting help for such an addiction can prove extremely difficult. Here’s a look at seven alarming statistics about veterans’ mental health that we need to address.
1. Veterans Are at a Higher Risk of PTSD
Post-traumatic stress disorder affects more than 7.7 million Americans. They’re also more likely to suffer from depression and suicidal thoughts and actions. PTSD can cause a person to experience severe anxiety too.
Veterans are at a higher risk of suffering from PTSD. In fact, as many as 31 percent of Vietnam veterans suffer from PTSD. So do 10 percent of veterans from the Gulf War (Desert Storm), along with 11 percent of veterans returning from Afghanistan. An astonishing 20 percent of veterans of Iraqi war may also experience PTSD.
2. Only 50 Percent of Those With PTSD Seek Treatment
Majorly due to stigma and inaccessibility, only about 50 percent of veterans with PTSD actually seek treatment. Of those who do, only about 19 percent will get “minimally adequate” treatment. That means the majority of veterans who reach out for help do not get the help they need and deserve.
Those with PTSD who do not get adequate treatment are more likely to turn to destructive habits. These include legal activities, such as smoking and tobacco use. The depression and anxiety that go with PTSD also tend to cause these veterans to withdraw from social situations. This makes them even less likely to get help.
3. About 20 Percent Will Abuse Drugs and/or Alcohol
Many people with PTSD turn to drugs and alcohol to cope. Veterans are no exception. In fact, roughly 20 percent of veterans who struggle through PTSD after war will turn to drugs and alcohol.
About 20 percent of service members also report binge drinking one or more times per week. Service members with combat exposure report even higher rates of alcohol abuse. In addition to the above, PTSD makes it harder for veterans to overcome such an addiction compared to those without PTSD.
4. Veterans Are 22 Percent More Likely to Commit Suicide
More than 117 people commit suicide in the United States each day. Roughly 18 percent of them are veterans. A 2017 study found that veterans are 22 percent more likely to commit suicide than a non-veteran. Experts believe that this increased risk ties into combat exposure and all that comes with it. PTSD and drug and alcohol abuse can all lead to higher risk of suicide too.
5. Many Veterans Abuse Prescription Drugs
As many veterans receive treatment for pain through powerful narcotics, the number of veterans addicted to prescription drugs is on the rise. Unfortunately, so too is the number of suicides in the veteran community. These two statistics are closely tied together.
In 2016, the research department of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs found that “veterans receiving high doses of opioid painkillers were more than twice as likely to die by suicide than those receiving low doses.”
Their increased risk of substance abuse and suicide should encourage veterans to seek alternative forms of pain management. Physical therapy and other methods of managing pain can also work to keep veterans more active and socially involved, thus decreasing their risk levels.
6. As Many as 19 Percent of Veterans May Have a TBI
It is possible that as many as 19 percent of veterans have a traumatic brain injury (TBI). And 7 percent of veterans may have both a TBI and PTSD. These complications make returning to civilian life even more difficult for veterans. Thus, it pushes them further in the direction of depression, substance use, and even suicide.
Without proper diagnoses and treatment, veterans cannot overcome all of these obstacles on their own. Veterans with a strong support system (including family members and friends) likely find it easier to recover. However, access to professional help and guidance should be a right for veterans.
7. Less Than Half of Veterans in Need Receive Mental Health Treatment
It’s shocking, but less than 50 percent of returning veterans who need mental health treatment actually receive it. Another 30 percent of active duty and reserve personnel are also in need of mental health care. This represents about 730,000 men and women.
Unfortunately, only a small percentage of them actually find the way to the treatment they need and deserve. Without treatment, these veterans are more likely to suffer through depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, substance use, and other severe mental health issues. In turn, these things make it even more difficult for a returning veteran to get a job, interact socially, or otherwise reintegrate into society.
Fortunately, in recent years, many organizations have begun to change this statistic. They are making mental health care more accessible for all. So, more veterans than ever before are seeking treatment for substance use disorders, depression, and other mental health concerns.
Unfortunately, seeking treatment for mental health continues to carry a stigma. But organizations like Transformations Treatment Center are working to change that. If you need help with a substance abuse problem, reach out to Transformations Treatment Center. We will provide you with kindness, understanding, and the professional help you need to turn your life around. Get help today.
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Foundation, N. (2019). Veteran Substance Abuse – What do the Statistics Tell Us. Retrieved from https://nvf.org/veteran-substance-abuse-statistics/
O’Brien, C., Oster, M., Morden, E., Committee on Prevention, a., Populations, B., & Medicine, I. (2019). Understanding Substance Use Disorders in the Military. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK207276/
Suicide Prevention. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.research.va.gov/topics/suicide.cfm
Veterans – National Council. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.thenationalcouncil.org/topics/veterans/
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