Vets helping vets
CNHI News Indiana
By Haley Cawthon
2 hrs ago
Tackling mental health issues, one conversation at a time
“I served in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War, during the Cold War and then during Desert Shield and Desert Storm, so there’s that connection with my fellow veterans in terms of deployments, missions and that sort of thing. In the Army they have this thing called your battle buddy, in the Navy it’s your shipmate, in the Air Force it’s your wingman — it’s the concept of leaving nobody behind and we are all in this together.” Ken Gardner
In a divisive time in the United States, almost all politicians and civilians can find common ground when it comes to supporting the troops. Yet, veterans are still dying daily due to a lack of mental health services.
In 2016, 6,079 veterans died by suicide across the country, according to data released by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Seventy of those deaths occurred in Indiana, and more than half of those veterans were 55 or older.
As bleak as those statistics are, there is somewhat of a hidden silver lining: Indiana’s veteran suicide rate of 16.7 percent is significantly lower than the national rate of 30.1 percent, and even the Midwestern region suicide rate of 28 percent.
So while there is still room for improvement, the Hoosier state appears to be leaps and bounds ahead of the nation. What sets us apart?
Recognizing the signs
Part of the solution to improving veterans’ mental health lies within another persons’ ability to notice the veteran is struggling before a crisis occurs, said Brandi Christiansen, a Navy veteran and executive director of Mental Health America of North Central Indiana. If no one intervenes, a veteran struggling with mental illness can become dangerous to themselves or others.
“We are waiting too long. We are waiting too long to have difficult conversations, we’re waiting too long to get help and identify those warning signs and symptoms,” Christiansen said. “I think we have become complacent as a society.”
According to the VA, about 11 to 20 out of every 100 Operation Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom veterans have post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). About 12 out of every 100 Gulf War veterans and 15 out of every 100 Vietnam veterans also suffer from PTSD.
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