For nearly 60 years, Americans have honored our brave service members on Veterans Day. This day reminds us of the sacrifices so many have made for our freedom. This year, I hope that Veterans Day also can serve as a reminder to us to support the many veterans in our state who have returned home.
The transition from military service is hard to imagine and difficult to describe. The end of military service, for many, is the beginning of a struggle to reclaim a “normal” life. A Pew Research Center survey illustrates the challenges veterans face:
• 27 percent of veterans stated that re-entry was difficult for them. The percentage grows to 44 percent in post-9/11 veterans.
• 56 percent of veterans who experienced a traumatic event while in the military reported difficulty adjusting to civilian life.
• 47 percent said they have frequent outbursts of anger.
• Nearly one third of all veterans stated they had an “emotionally traumatic or distressing” event while at war - a proportion that increases to 43 percent among veterans who have served since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
• 56 percent of veterans who experienced a traumatic event said that they have flashbacks or repeated distressing memories of the experience, and nearly half reported suffering from post-traumatic stress.
The struggles to adjust to civilian life can be challenging. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) a military veteran commits suicide every hour. Suicides among active duty personnel hit record highs last year and are now occurring at the alarming rate of nearly one per day. There are now more military deaths by suicide among active duty personnel than combat fatalities.
In response to rising suicide rates nationwide, Centerstone developed a comprehensive suicide prevention initiative. A suicide prevention committee was formed which developed recommendations for effective treatment interventions. In addition, Centerstone launched a goal of “zero suicides” within our client treatment system.
This Veterans Day, we must acknowledge veterans’ struggles in combat and in coming home. Now is the time to support the veterans in your life as they have supported and protected each of us. Centerstone is proud to be a resource for veterans. We have counselors specially trained to meet the unique needs of military families, and we have partnered with Affiliated Service Providers of Indiana (ASPIN) to participate in a new national effort dedicated to expanding mental healthcare services available to military families. You can help us reach those in need.
If you or someone you know is in need of assistance, help can be accessed via our crisis line at 800-832-5442. Together, we can save lives.
Suzanne Koesel, LCSW, is CEO of Centerstone Indiana, a not-for-profit provider of community-based mental health and addiction services. For more information on Centerstone, call 800-344-8802 or visit www.centerstone.org.