This week marks the time of year when we as a nation turn our attention to those among us whose service to our country—past and present—and we seek a way to demonstrate our appreciation to them for their commitment.
Veterans Day is a holiday that compels us all to go to a place of respect for the hard truths and hard times inherent in military service—what our veterans understand with the deep wisdom of experience.
Many veterans have left one battle behind only to encounter another at home and work. Recent studies tell us that nearly a third of veterans who seek care through Veterans Administration (VA) health centers receive mental health diagnoses.
Among the barriers encountered, stigma remains as a huge obstacle. Not only is the high suicide rate among active-duty troops and veterans of great concern to all branches of the military and to us, many of those currently serving are reluctant to even mention symptoms of mental illness, fearing that seeking treatment may affect their careers. A survey of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan found that of those whose responses met the criteria of a mental illness, only 38 to 45 percent expressed an interest in receiving help.
So, what can we do at NAMI? How can we help? What can we do to help our veterans and their families find help, relief, support and a promise of recovery?
Our online Veterans Resources Center consolidates the most useful online resources for veterans and their families. It also addresses the needs of active duty military contending with posttraumatic stress and other mental health issues. The NAMI HelpLine responds to calls from individuals and families alike searching for a sympathetic listener, resources and referrals to services and support. We offer family education course to military families through the NAMI Family-to-Family collaborative with the Veterans Health Administration in communities across the country. And, guided by our volunteer leadership and advisory council, the NAMI Veterans Council, we engage in public policy advocacy at all levels to ensure that veterans and their families have access to the health care services and supports they need.
And yet, there are more people—active duty, veterans and their family members—who need help and hope. At NAMI, we acknowledge both veterans’ service to our country and the hidden wounds many carry as a result. We invite you to join us in this effort by extending your support via a post to our Veterans Tribute Honor Roll.
In the words of John F. Kennedy, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” This week, we remember so that we won’t forget.