Though the financial future of the military has attracted a great deal of attention in recent months, the growing mental health crisis plaguing veterans and active duty servicemembers is causing a much greater strain on the Armed Forces. The Department of Defense (DOD) has placed a heavy emphasis on suicide prevention over the last several years, but despite the significant efforts, the issue is still one of the most pervasive in the military community, The Arizona Republic reports.
Congress, White House have taken action
Over the last several years, suicide prevention has been a priority for lawmakers in Washington, D.C. For instance, in 2007 Congress passed the Joshua Omvig Suicide Prevention Act, which was designed to reduce the stigma sometimes attached to seeking out mental health counseling. Around the same time, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), created a hotline dedicated to helping out veterans in crisis. In fact, last year President Barack Obama ordered the staffing at the hotline to increase by 50 percent. During the last five-plus years it has handled an estimated 740,000 calls.
Wounds often not visible
Experts say that one of the biggest reasons veterans may be hesitant to seek help for their mental wounds is because tens of thousands of soldiers have come home with visible injuries, so they feel as though they are not entitled to seek treatment for matters of the mind. However, with an estimated 20 percent of veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms (PTSD) it's important they start to view non-visible wounds as valid, experts say.
"A lot of them view that because they didn't come back with an amputation, they don't think they deserve help," Danny Guckenburg, a counselor at the Phoenix Vet Center, told the newspaper. "There is a need to validate that their wounds are just as important. This is the place they can open up about the pain they are experiencing. They can get a sense of hope that is missing."
New resources available
Earlier this month, the Army officially launched its website for the Ready and Resilient Campaign, which provides soldiers with many helpful resources, especially when it comes to mental health and suicide prevention. In particular, it offers a long list of numbers – including the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – as well as links to the military health system's website and the Army's suicide prevention literature.