How to Help Our Heroes: Mental Health Resources for Veteran and Their Families

When we have a federal holiday, many of us focus on the opportunity to enjoy an extended weekend and our focus is on getting together with our loved ones or using our spare time to our advantage.  It’s easy to focus on the things we don’t get to do often and lose sight of the true meaning of Memorial Day.11377140_10152980829086775_5786723641010396236_n.jpgThis Memorial Day, we ask that you remember not only the fallen soldiers but also their families and the veterans among us today who suffer with the painful memories of war and their fallen brothers and sisters.

Statistics show an estimated 25% of people who served in the U.S. military have symptoms of at least one mental health condition, with more than 10% qualifying for a diagnosis of two or more mental illnesses frequently acquired while serving their country. Our military faces many challenges that we, as average citizens, cannot fathom such as; Extended separation from their loved ones, facing the harsh realities of combat, and head trauma as well as being obligated to press on in war under severe emotional stress.

According to the RAND Center for Military Health Policy Research many veterans who served in either Iraq or Afghanistan suffer from either major depression or post-traumatic stress disorder.  Major depression is characterized by encompassing periods of low moods, loss of interest in activities that were once desirable, continuing fatigue, and other characteristics that minimize the victim’s quality of life, ability to work and even his or her ability to function in basic day to day activities.  Post-traumatic stress disorder develops as a result of exposure to traumatic events such as war and is identified by disturbing or altered thoughts and feelings, mental or physical distress triggered by trauma related cues, increased fight or flight responses, and recurring nightmares for extended periods of time.  Both illnesses are leading causes in substance abuse and suicide cases nationwide.

What can you do to help those who suffer as a result of war while honoring our fallen heroes this memorial day? 

  • Learn how to recognize mental illnesses in your loved one by knowing the signs and symptoms.  There are several resources available for your research such as The American Psychiatric Association, Mental Health America, or WebMD.com where major depression and PTSD are explained.
  • Know how to treat someone who is suffering. Offer unconditional love and support while avoiding trying to fix their problems on your own. Never advise a victim to “snap out of it” or “move on from the past” in these situations.  Be realistic in knowing that these things require patience and understanding and healing takes a very long time for some.  Definitely encourage professional help whenever possible, but do so gently without making a victim feel insulted, judged, or unwanted.  Always express understanding and encouragement as well as acknowledgement that their issues are as real as any other illnesses.
  • Promote and support treatment whenever possible.  Help them to understand that treatment isn’t modifying their personality but can greatly help relieve symptoms.  Offer help with locating a therapist or health care provider, preparing for their appointments, transportation when needed, and tracking symptoms.  Use mild reminders for both medication and motivation when you see they are not having success on their own.
  • Understand the crisis our nation is facing regarding military mental health. According to Dr. Joel Young numerous studies have documented the fact that our service members struggle to access mental health treatment. Dr. Young shares some of the disturbing challenges our military faces when in need of treatment such as professional consequences, inaccessible treatment and the lack of military mental health screenings in his informative article in Psychology Today.
  • Pursue all the resources available to help you help someone you love who is suffering mental illness as a result of time served. Mental Health America offers a comprehensive list of resources you can reach out to on their website (click here for a direct link).
  • Donate to charities that support the well being of our veterans. Here are a few great charities to send your donations to: Wounded Warrior Project, Cohen Veterans Network, America’s Military Charity, American Veteran’s Foundation, or check out this list of recommended charities from “The Street’s” charity watch for veterans.
  • If you believe your loved one is at an immediate risk for suicide, do NOT leave the person alone. In the U.S., dial 911 or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.

We at Close Range Safety Training Academy want to honor our fallen heroes this holiday and every day as well as all who have served in the U.S. Military.  We thank you for your service to our country.  We wish everyone a safe and joyous holiday weekend as you respect and remember our courageous veterans. Please follow our blog for more health and safety tips for you and your loved ones.

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❄😔Holiday Blues got You Down? Try These Prevention & Survival Tips for a Happier & Healthier Winter Season😔❄

Holiday blues are a pretty common problem despite the fact that as a society, we see the holidays as a joyous time,” says Rakesh Jain, MD, director of psychiatric drug research at the R/D Clinical Research Center in Lake Jackson, Texas. “Many people feel depressed, which can be due to the increased stress that comes with the need to shop and the decreased time to exercise which gets put on the back burner during the holidays.”

While people with clinical depression should seek professional help, those with a touch of the holiday blues can try these strategies recommended by experts to assure a merry holiday and a happy new year:

  • Avoid setting up unrealistic expectations for yourself such as taking on hosting responsibilities for events or trying to be the peace keeper in family conflicts.
  • Plan ahead by creating prevention routines for yourself and doing your best to follow your schedule. Set up a calendar of to do lists for positive actions for yourself.
  • Remember it’s ok to grieve. If you’ve suffered a loss and this season is a painful reminder of that, don’t be ashamed to grieve that loss. Feelings are a sign that you’re human and reflect where you are in your healing process.
  • Don’t rob yourself of proper rest! Sleep and rest are important to everyone. Studies have proven that sleep deprivation is directly connected to depression. Do not cut back on your sleep in order to get more done during this busy season. Create a sleep schedule and stick to it.
  • Avoid binging on food and alcohol. What feels good at the moment will have you facing regrets later on. Know your limits and stick to them at all times. In the moment binging may seem like a solution, but in actuality it creates more problems.

If your feelings of sadness during the holidays are accompanied by suicidal thoughts, do one of the following immediately: 1. Call 911  2. Go immediately to a hospital emergency room. 3. Contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).


Could I be Suffering from Depression?

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Here are some symptoms to help identify depression in yourself or in a loved one:

  • Prolonged sadness or unexplained crying spells
  • Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Struggling with concentrating
  • Feelings of hopelessness or helplessness
  • Overwhelming and uncontrollable negative thoughts
  • Loss of appetite or significant increase in appetite
  • Escalating irritability, aggression, or anger
  • Loss of interest in hobbies or activities previously enjoyed
  • Developing an increase in alcohol consumption or reckless (acting out) behavior
  • Thoughts that your life is not worth living or thoughts of death or suicide
  • Fatigue, exhaustion, lack of energy
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt
  • Inability to concentrate or make decisions
  • Pessimism, indifference
  • Unexplained aches and pains

If you are experiencing these symptoms you should seek professional help immediately. If you observe these symptoms in a loved one, gently encourage them to consider professional help.

For a listing of depression support groups, please visit the DBSA online


For Family and Friends

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Keep in mind that a mood disorder such as Depression is a physical, treatable illness that effects a person’s brain. It is a real illness, as real as diabetes or asthma. It is not a character flaw or personal weakness, and it is not caused by anything you or your loved one did.

A “tough love” approach is widely considered  unhelpful in terms of aiding someone with depression.


What to do in Crisis Situation

If you believe your loved one is at an immediate risk for suicide, do NOT leave the person alone.

In the U.S., dial 911 or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK