EHR and practice management for mental / behavioral health

Mental Health Support for Veterans & Military Families

Most of us are familiar with the statistics – and understand the stigma. 20 veterans die by suicide each day. 30% of active duty and reserve military personnel deployed in Iraq & Afghanistan have a mental health con­dition requiring treatment. Of those approximately 730,000 men and women, many experiencing post-trau­matic stress disorder and/or major depression, less than 50% receive any mental health treatment.

Regardless of where or how long troops may have served, each service member has a circle of family (significant other, children, parents, siblings, etc.) who are also impacted by their military service. Study after study shows that deployment is associated with behavioral problems in children, a higher risk of divorce, and higher rates of suicide for military families. Long separations, frequent moves, inconsistent training schedules, late nights in the office and the toll of high, sustained mental & physical demands on the service member can all add up over time.

The Good News

The good news is that mental health support for veterans and military families is now taken more seriously than ever. Because current data supports identifying & addressing behavioral health needs for service members and their families, the stigma surrounding getting treatment is less than what it has been in the past.

Increasingly, sound data is taking precedence over past patterns of stigma and fear – and helping service members and their families understand that seeking support is the strongest, bravest thing they can do.

The more those of us in the broader society can be aware of the challenges – and the help available – the better we can all support veterans and military families. They serve on our behalf every day; acknowledging the unique challenges & stresses of their service and knowing how they can get support is one small way we can show respect and give back.

Military Marriage & Relationships

Not only are deployments themselves stressful, so is the time before and after them. Service members and their partners might feel sad, irritable, angry, and/or frustrated. They might find themselves picking fights, avoiding difficult discussions, or withdrawing altogether.

These experiences are completely normal for military couples throughout the deployment cycle, and that’s why counseling support can be invaluable. Addressing concerns before they escalate can help alleviate pressure and make the relationship better, benefitting the entire family. To support married service members and their families, the Defense of Department offers a variety of free counseling options. Click here for details about how to access both medical and non-medical counseling.

Kids & Parenting in Military Families

Being a parent is hard, and being a military parent is even harder. Every day, military kids face the incredible stress of deployments and frequent moves. Thankfully, there is free counseling & support available for military parents, spouses, and families. Click here for a military parenting resource center – and check out 10 Tips Military & Veteran Parents Should Know.

Mental Health Details & Resources

Common Concerns

Nearly 1 in 4 active duty service members showed signs of a mental health condition, according to a 2014 study in JAMA Psychiatry. The three primary behavioral health concerns for service members are:

// Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) > Traumatic events, such as military combat, assault, disasters, and/or sexual assault can have long-lasting symptoms of PTSD, such as trouble sleeping & nightmares, anger, being “jumpy”, and substance use – to name just a few. The 2014 JAMA Psychiatry study found the rate of PTSD to be 15 times higher than civilians.

// Depression > More than just experiencing sadness, depression doesn’t mean you are weak, nor is it something that you can simply “just get over.” Depression often interferes with activities of daily life; can sap the spark from experiences that used to provide joy; and may require treatment. The JAMA study found the rate of depression to be five times higher for service members than for civilians.

// Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) > A traumatic brain injury is usually the result of significant blow to the head or body. Symptoms can include headaches, fatigue or drowsiness, memory problems, and/or mood swings.

Who Should You Tell?

Service men and women owe it to their fellow service members to stay in good mental as well as physical health. If a service member needs support, here are some people to consider speaking with:

// Confidential counselors are available for service members and their families through Military One Source at 1-800-342-9647. If you’re unsure whether to seek treatment or if you someone you know might need treatment, they are an excellent first stop for information and advice.

// Primary care providers can be helpful for discussing concerns and treatment options.

// Behavioral health care providers often work at primary care clinics, so service members can seek a specialist’s advice without leaving base. At some bases, one can even find convenient Embedded Behavioral Health teams: clinics separate from traditional medical facilities.

// If you are having thoughts of suicide, contact the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255, option 1 (available 24/7).

How Will Asking for Mental Health Support Affect Your Career?

In today’s armed forces, mental health is equally essential to mission success as physical health, and the military has changed many of its policies in recent years to encourage better behavioral health & wellness. In addition, due to changes to security clearance procedures, you no longer risk losing clearance by consulting a doctor.

Under 2014 rules, talking to a doctor about your concerns, asking if you need a diagnosis, and/or seeking treatment do not affect your career. If your doctor needs to disclose your condition, your career is not at risk from this disclosure. If you seek help for combat-related issues or receive marital counseling, you do not have to worry about “question 21” regarding treatment for mental or emotional conditions.

Under 2014 rules, talking to a doctor about your concerns, asking if you need a diagnosis, and/or seeking treatment do not affect your career. If your doctor needs to disclose your condition, your career is not at risk from this disclosure. If you seek help for combat-related issues or receive marital counseling, you do not have to worry about “question 21” regarding treatment for mental or emotional conditions.

How Can You Help a Fellow Warrior?

If someone you know tells you about a mental health concern, don’t laugh it off or assure them that the problem will get better on its own, even if you want to comfort the person or feel uncomfortable yourself. The military can’t succeed in its mission to “restore the fighting force” without the help of all personnel.

Do your part by encouraging treatment of mental health conditions swiftly, before they can worsen. For more advice, contact the completely confidential counselors at Military One Source (1-800-342-9647) – and recommend that your friend call as well.

Sources & Resources

Quick Resources by Topic & Veteran Type
Military Family Life 101
Mental Health First Aid
Maintaining a Strong Body & Mind for Military Service Members
NAMI Veterans & Active Duty Mental Health Resources

 

Leigh-Ann Renz

Leigh-Ann Renz

Leigh-Ann Renz is the Marketing & Business Development Director of PIMSY EHR. For more information about electronic solutions for your practice, check out Mental Health EHR.

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