With Veterans Day coming up Monday, the National Alliance on Mental Illness Ohio (NAMI Ohio) is reaching out to veterans and active duty military who may need help with mental health connections and suicide prevention.
Many veterans find the battles don’t end when their service is over. Depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and suicidal thoughts can plague those on activity duty, in the military reserves, and long-time veterans.
These conditions, if untreated, can take a huge toll. An average of 20 veterans die by suicide each day in the U.S.
Terry Russell, executive director of NAMI Ohio stated “as a veteran myself, I know how difficult it is to come back to our normal lives after being deployed around the world. The numbers are staggering and NAMI Ohio believes that those who have sacrificed for all of us deserve the best care possible.”
NAMI Ohio acted two years ago to establish the Ohio Service Members, Veterans & Families Council, a volunteer organization comprised of veterans, mental health professionals, care providers and others. The council is involved statewide with mental health first aid training, regional outreach meetings, education and social media campaigns, and broad overall efforts to link veterans with health and mental health services.
Among the challenges the council faces is a double whammy of stigma, greater in the military where seeking mental health treatment is often seen as a sign of weakness or threat to a long-term military career.
Statistics from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs show the depth of the suicide problem. In 2016, the last year for which complete data is available, there were 245 veteran suicides in Ohio, compared to 1,202 in the 12-state Midwestern region and 6,079 in the U.S. Male veterans were far more likely than females to take their own lives. The largest group of suicides was in the 55 to 74 age group, but the rate for veterans 18 to 34 was far higher, according to statistics. The rate for veterans in all age groups far exceeded the rate for the general population in the state, region and nation.
Dr. Nathan D. Tomcik, Director of Outpatient Health at the Central Ohio Veterans Health Care System in Columbus, said veterans most often seek help for depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder.
“The problem with PTSD is it is the brain’s normal response to a non-normal situation,” Dr. Tomcik said. “That can save their life on the battlefield but doesn’t work back at home. We help the veteran to process the memory in a safe controlled way so they can go back to living their lives and doing things with their families.”
Dr. Tomcik added, “Any veteran that needs treatment can walk in to the VA and we can see them the same day. They will get an evaluation by a mental health provider.” Treatment can begin immediately for those in crisis or with a couple weeks for others, he said.
Members of the NAMI Veterans Council include veterans who have dealt with many of the common issues facing those after exiting military service.
Mike Turner, 56, a former Dayton resident who served in the U.S. Marines, said veterans mostly need support and understanding that they’re not alone.
“People have to understand not all veterans have a mental health issue,” Turner said. “You don’t need to treat them different. Treat them as human beings. We want to be accepted. We need to make sure veterans realize there are people out there to reach out to and get help.”
Daniel Hutchison, 36, a former Army combat medic, is an advocate for helping fellow veterans and active duty military personnel get help.
“We’re getting better at this,” Hutchison said. “Every single day we’re working at it…We have the opportunity to be the voice for the veteran who doesn’t have one.”
Here are some places where veterans can turn for help:
NAMIOhio, www.namiohio.org, Helpline 1-800-686-2646
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, https://www.va.gov/
Veterans Crisis Line: 1 800 273-8255, Press 1 for crisis line.
Ohio Department of Veterans Services, http://dvs.ohio.gov/main/home.html
Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation, http://www.ohiospf.org/contact.php
The National Alliance on Mental Illness of Ohio (NAMI Ohio) helps individuals and families affected by serious biological brain disorders. NAMI Ohio is comprised of families, persons diagnosed with mental illness, advocates and mental health professionals working together to ensure that Ohioans with mental illness and their loved ones receive the treatment and support they need. NAMI Ohio is the statewide association that serves as the voice on mental illness in Ohio. The mission of NAMI Ohio is to improve the quality of life, ensure dignity and respect for persons with serious mental illness, and to support their families.
Katie DillonNational Alliance on Mental Illness of OhioDirector of Communication & Outreach6142242700katie@namiohio.org
|National Alliance on Mental Illness of Ohio|
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