Military personnel should possess qualities like loyalty, integrity, honor, self-control, courage, and, most importantly, bravery. It’s not an easy job to be on the front line of combat zones and faced with situations where there is an immediate threat to life.
There’s so much than what meets the eye, and as much as the men and women in uniform stay strong, there can be a breaking point in which can affect the mental health conditions of service members and their families. Being deployed in the combat zone is an overwhelming situation for military personnel and their family.
There’s separation anxiety and the uncertainty of safety when on active duty. That is why, on this page, we will be discussing the mental health problems in the active-duty military, veterans, and their families.
Mental Health Issues Military: The Common Mental Health Problems of Service Members
According to the rates recorded by the National Council for Behavior Health, 30% of military troops (both on active duty and reserve crew) deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq have mental health conditions that need to be addressed. These rates are pretty alarming. 730,000 men and women military personnel and veterans experience mental health conditions like major depression and Post Traumatic Disorder (PTSD).
The more alarming news is 22 veterans in the U.S. commit suicide every day due to the lack of mental and emotional health care. Now that we are aware of this information, something has to be done. This can be prevented if seeking help for mental wellness in the military is stigmatized. There are three major mental health disorders that are commonly diagnosed in the U.S. military on active duty and veterans.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Traumatic events in military combat like assault, accidents, attacks, witnessing death are the most common causes of post-traumatic disorder (PTSD). The traumatic events in a person diagnosed with PTSD can have long-lasting negative effects like nightmares, frequent flashbacks of the event, trouble sleeping, and severe anxiety. Both veterans and active-duty members experience PTSD.
Depression is a common mental health concern among mental personnel. Being away from their family for long times, the death of a brother or sister in arms, a serious physical injury while in service are the common causes of depression in the military. The lack of diagnoses and treatment of depression may affect their usual day-to-day activities.
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
Due to combat and strenous training exercises in the military, service members are at high risk of brain injury due to a blow to the head, most especially a concussion. When there is no proper treatment or health care, Traumatic brain injury leads to memory problems and mood swings. Studies show that head injuries may lead to mental health conditions like depression and anxiety in veterans and active-duty members.
Other Mental Disorders
Statistics show that U.S. armed troops and veterans also experience mental illnesses like anxiety disorders, mood disorders, and substance use disorders. Adjustment disorder is also common in military transitioning to civilian life and living a normal life in the community. Adjustment disorder is also characterized by an unhealthy response to life changes.
How to Recognize a Mental Health Condition
If you’re active military personnel, a veteran, or have a family member of military personnel, learn how to distinguish the warning signs of mental illness. This knowledge also comes in handy if you notice another service member that is experiencing mental and emotional distress. The signs and symptoms of a mental illness may vary from each person. Physical, emotional, behavioral, and mental health changes may be witnessed. How do you recognize the presence of a mental illness?
Here are the signs and symptoms to look out for:
- Feeling down and sad for long periods
- Appears to be confused and unable to concentrate in doing daily tasks
- Unpredictable mood changes (switching from a happy mood to a sad mood real quick)
- Appears to be excessively worried, guilty, and scared
- Once a friendly person that suddenly prefers to be alone
- Doesn’t seem to enjoy the activities enjoyed before
- Unable to sleep properly
- Appears to be tired all the time and lacks energy
- Changes in eating patterns
- Disconnected from reality (hallucinations, paranoia, delusions)
- Hostility, violence, and anger
- Having difficulty coping with challenges at work
- Physical symptoms like back pain, stomach pain, headache, and other unexplained physical symptoms
- Suicidal thoughts
Will Seeking Help For Mental Health Have a Career Impact in the Military?
Military service members are expected to be in great physical shape, but mental health condition is equally detrimental to fulfill their duties. In recent years, the military has changed its policies when it comes to mental health services. It’s about time to take action and give mental support to the men and women who risk their lives in protecting our country.
The Department of Defense has recognized that untreated mental illness poses a threat to the safety of the community and the people. The Defense Department reiterates that seeking help for your mental help does not impose a risk on your career. In short, if you talk to a therapist or a counselor may it be due to issues in your line of work or problems at home, this does not affect your career. Let’s be clear on this because this one of the stigmas surrounding mental conditions in the military.
The HIPAA Act
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) under the Privacy Act of 1974 states that armed personnel has protected health information. The Department of Defense supports voluntary seeking of military personnel’s mental health services, and any information shall be kept private and confidential between the patient and the mental health care provider.
Unless when there is a serious risk of harming oneself or others, then this is disclosed to the commanding officer. This does not mean immediate dismissal; other options are explored to address the issue (to seek treatment or change the line of duties).
What Happens If You Do Not Seek Mental Treatment?
Mental wellness problems do not go away on their own. The longer the mental illness persists, the longer it is left untreated, the more difficult it is for an individual to recover. Any person with untreated mental illness may worsen their symptoms. As a result, it will affect how they function in their everyday life.
Military troops who do not seek immediate help for their mental conditions may have repercussions in their career. Seeking therapy does not affect your job. But when a doctor has diagnosed the presence of a mental illness, the commanding officer may take action in changing duty limitations (from deployment in the field to office work).
If the symptoms are severe and affect their ability to fulfill the job responsibilities, separation from the service may be recommended. That is why it is recommended that military troops take care of their mental wellness and seek help immediately.
Records show that 97% of military personnel who seek mental health treatment have helped them and did not affect their career in any way—those who ignore seeking treatment for their mental health experience more damaging impacts in their career.
Mental Health Tips for The Man and Women in Uniform
For our men and women in uniform in the military, army, navy, veterans, airforce, police officer, fire department, emergency responders, those who risk their lives in ensuring the safety and security of the whole nation, please do take care of your mental health.
For families struggling to cope with the emotional and mental stress of a family member in service, know that you can seek help. Here are some tips you can follow to take care of your mind and body
Practice Relaxation Techniques
Relaxation techniques like mindfulness meditation, deep breathing, and yoga are beneficial approaches to avoiding anxiety, depression and improving sleeping patterns. When you practice relaxation techniques for at least 15 minutes daily, you will feel calmer. It can help reduce and reverse the symptoms for individuals diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Exercising regularly is not only good for physical health but helps in mental wellness as well. That’s why active personnel on duty loves to exercise because it’s a great pastime. Plus, exercise can improve their sleep, relieve stress, increase their energy, and improve their mood.
Did you know that what you eat affects the way you feel? Yes! Just like how can chocolate make a person happy and how junk foods can make a person bloated and feel crappy. So take care of your mental well-being, eat a balanced diet. Eating nutritious food regularly and eating sweet treats in moderation are found to be a step for mental health care.
Stay Connected With Your Friends and Loved Ones
It is important to stay connected with your friends in the service and your family as well. Scheduling video calls with family members at home is a great source of strength. For men and women in active duty, take time to enjoy group activities and bond with others.
Talking about what you feel and having an emotional outlet with your brother and sisters on the field is great therapy. Sometimes, all you need is someone to listen. Talking about your mental health with the people you trust is sometimes all the therapy you need.
For the family members or veterans, join support groups, go out and talk to other people. Staying connected with your friends and loved ones is crucial in taking care of the mental health.
Get Professional Help
The last and most important tip to look after one’s mental well-being is to seek professional help. There are mental health specialists deployed in the field that are trained to help with service members’ emotional and mental well-being.
For veterans transitioning to civilian life, seeking support from a mental health professional can help you cope with life changes and increase your resilience. For family members, the spouses, kids, and parents, please take care of your mental health too and seek out support.
Know your treatment options by seeking professional help from Kentucky Counseling Center. You can schedule an appointment online and enjoy Telehealth Care Services from the comfort of your home. As you seek professional help, you will enjoy a more productive, happier, and stress-free life.