Excelsior Presents Webinar on Military Mental Health Issues

Mental health care is an important and growing part of our national discussion, but did you know that mental health issues disproportionately affect over 18 million U.S. veterans and their families? The statistics are staggering.

  • The Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Center for PTSD estimated that 1 in 20 of the nation’s 5 million surviving World War II veterans suffers from PTSD as well as:
    • 31 percent of Vietnam veterans
    • 10 percent of Gulf War veterans (Desert Storm)
    • 11 percent of veterans from the war in Afghanistan
  • According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, there were 40,056 homeless veterans living in the U.S. in a single night in January 2017.
  • Less than 50 percent of returning veterans suffering from mental illness receive treatment.
  • 20 veterans die by suicide every day in the United States.

On May 9, Excelsior College held a webinar to discuss some of the health issues unique to military populations. Presented by Sandra Butterfield, ‘86 , Jessica Cheverie, ’02 , and James Ketzler, ’00, the webinar focused on the multitude of reasons for the higher rates of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder , depression, and Traumatic Brain Injury among veterans as well as barriers to care and how to get help.

Because of their long-term exposure to high-intensity kinetic conflict, uncertainty, combat-related injuries or death, loss of control, and long separations from their loved ones, veterans often return from military service with significant mental health challenges as they transition back to civilian life. All too often, these issues trickle down to other members of their families as well.

Recognizing the signs of mental distress early is key to diagnosis and treatment. Some warning behaviors could include:

  • Prolonged sadness, anxiety, or strong feelings of anger
  • Extreme emotional highs or extreme lows
  • Social withdrawal
  • Dramatic changes in eating or sleeping habits
  • Delusions or hallucinations
  • Growing inability to cope with daily problems and activities
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Denial of obvious problems
  • Excessive substance use

The institutional stigma surrounding mental illness within the military community causes many servicemembers to avoid seeking treatment for fear of professional consequences as severe as dishonorable discharge. Until recently, the military had limited mental health screenings available and the armed forces does not require servicemembers to disclose mental health problems to their chain of command.

Fortunately, the military has changed many of its policies in recent years to encourage better mental health and the Department of Defense states that they realize untreated mental health conditions pose a greater safety risk than mental health conditions for which the person is seeking treatment. A 2014 rule states that receiving a diagnosis or seeking treatment can not affect your career, even if your doctors need to disclose your condition.

If you or a loved one is struggling with mental illness or the transition to civilian life, the below resources could help:

If you’re interested in learning more, a recording of this webinar is available for our alumni community by logging in here: https://alumni.excelsior.edu. Visit our Alumni Events Page to see what webinars we have coming up at  https://www.excelsior.edu/alumni/alumni-events/.