Young Veterans and Mental Health Services

One of the major effects of warfare is mental related problems. Serving in the army according to Olenick, Flowers & Diaz (2015) is one of the major causes of depression and other mental related illnesses. Many veterans who have returned from war have reported having somatic illnesses such as insomnia, fatigue, shortness of breath, fatigue and have eventually been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The relationship between mental health illnesses and serving in the army is brought by unimaginable situations that are experienced by soldiers. These situations have long terms effects towards cognitive functionalism of veterans and active members of the army (Reisman, 2016). Various reports from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) have indicated that young veterans are the most affected group. The reports have also indicated that 8 to 22 veterans in a day commit suicide and young veterans aged between 18 and 40 are most at risk (Ross, Travis & Arbuckle, 2017). Therefore, this paper will evaluate whether the lack of mental health services is contributing to the profound growth of suicide rates among young veterans.

Background

Young adults join the army for many reasons which include financial inducements, educational benefits, and patriotism plus family traditions. Reports have revealed that most of the youths who join the army have limited job prospects and the army seems like a feasible alternative (Reisman, 2016). During war, the youth face various catastrophic events including IED explosions and suicide bombers. As a result, the youths end up going home with physical and mental injuries. These forms of injuries usually have detrimental effects on their cognitive functionalism. For instance, Reisman (2016) indicated that individuals who joined the army before 25 years were seven times likely to develop mental-related problems than soldiers who joined after 25 years. The mental health problems are associated with the fact that most of these youth go home with unfulfilled expectations and memories of the events of warfare.

Furthermore, these youths have difficulties transitioning into civilian life such as getting a job and starting a family. The mental health conditions profoundly affect their life especially because of lack of medical care. Ross, Travis & Arbuckle (2017) indicated that more than 50% of veterans do not access mental health services. Furthermore, more than half of veterans who seek clinical attention because mental health-related problems do not get adequate care. Lack of medical care pushes these veterans to commit suicide, and the phenomenon has been worrying for relevant authorities including the mental health practitioners (Ross, Travis & Arbuckle, 2017).

Lack of Mental Health Services and Suicide

Various reports have indicated that young veterans experience conditions that have adverse effects on their cognitive well-being. The cognitive related problems according to these reports are the primary reasons behind profoundly growing suicide rates among young veterans. In this case, the rate of suicide rates is high among young veterans compared to their civilian counterparts (Leardmann, Powell & Smith, 2013). The rates of suicide among young veterans are 35 times higher than of young civilian adults. These rates are high because of the lack of quality psychological health services. Ideally, most young veterans suffer from mental conditions such as depression and PTSD. These conditions according to Leardmann, Powel & Smith require to be addressed through intervention programs. These programs help to mitigate trigger of symptoms of depression and anxiety. Due to the lack of these services, the symptoms are aggravated, and they lead to suicidal thoughts, and it is the primary reason behind high suicide rates among veterans (Leardmann, Powell & Smith, 2013).

In addition to that, military personnel usually perceive seeking mental health services as a form of weakness. People seek psychological help are perceived as weak and cannot hold the pressure of being in the army. There is a hyper masculine culture that is associated with the military life which focuses on the concept of self-reliance. Hyper masculinity does not have room for seeking help for issues such as mental health. As a result, being part of the military culture, young veterans usually avoid any form of psychological help. Kulesza et al. (2015) indicated that soldiers become aware of the stigmatizing beliefs regarding mental health problems through the process of military, cultural socialization. Although not every military officer holds the negative stereotypes regarding mental problem recruits are most affected. Ideally, because most of the recruits are young, they are propelled by the need to show that they are strong which gives them the urge to fulfill the stereotypes. Young veterans opt to deal with mental health issues alone, and it pushes them to end their lives. The young veterans are usually afraid of judgment from their peers, and they would rather end their lives than visiting a psychiatrist. This phenomenon shows how stereotypes are barriers to access mental health care. Lack of mental health care eventually leads to suicide.

Additionally, these young veterans are usually under pressure to protect their loved or families by not telling them their problems and struggles. For that reason, due to the pressure and the stigma of seeking psychological help, young veterans usually handle their mental problems by engaging in substance abuse. For instance, Teeters et al. (2017) indicated that substance abuse is one of the major problems among young veterans. Teeters et al. (2017) revealed that despite various forms that have been put in place by various organizations substance use disorders continue to rise. The rise is because of the lack of medical intervention or care because of the stigma that is associated with it. Substance abuse disorders aggravate the symptoms of the mental conditions such as PTSD and they eventually lead to suicidal behavior. Teeters et al. (2017) stated that more than 30% of military-related suicide or attempts were preceded by drug or alcohol abuse. This phenomenon shows that there is the need to design an effective mechanism of mitigating mental problems of young veterans to prevent substance use which eventually leads them to suicidal behavior.

Also, most young veterans especially the ones who live in rural areas have a problem accessing mental health institutions. In this case, mental health institutions are located far from rural areas, and it becomes problematic for young veterans especially the ones with physical injuries. This logic explains why suicide rates are higher in rural areas than in urban centers (Lineberry & O’Connor, 2012). For instance, U.S of Department of Veterans (VA) data on veteran suicide has shown that location plays a significant role in suicidal rates among veterans. The data has revealed that suicide rates are highest in rural areas such as Utah and Nevada. The data from VA revealed that in rural areas of the United States veterans’ suicide rate stand at 60 per 100,000 which is higher than the national rate of 38.4 per 100,000 (Lineberry & O’Connor, 2012). The report from VA stated that limited access to health care was one of the primary reasons behind the high rates.

In most cases, the proximity of institutions where young veterans can get psychological attention is far. Therefore, they cannot access medical attention that is required to mitigate their mental problems. As a result, the young veterans become frustrated, and they end up committing suicide (Lineberry & O’Connor, 2012).

Economic deprivation is another factor that shows that lack of medical services is the main reason behind high suicide rates among veterans. Various studies have shown that veterans in the United States go through economic hardship. Despite their heroic status, these veterans face high rates of economic deprivation and unemployment (Leardmann, Powell & Smith, 2013). For instance, various reports have indicated that one in seven young veterans are unemployed while 13 percent of homeless young adults have served in the American army. In addition to that, federal compensation of veterans is not competitive to allow them access quality medical care (Miles et al. (2017). Most of these veterans have complained about late payments which prevent them from accessing timely intervention plans. The economic state of these veterans means that they cannot access basic amenities such as hospitals. For instance, Logan et al., (2016) stated that unemployment and job-related issues were among the major causes of suicide among young veterans. Ideally, most of the young veterans do not have skills that they can transfer into the professional world. Thus, the veterans usually get low-income jobs while some struggle to find any form of employment.

Furthermore, some employers deliberately refuse to employ individuals who have served in the army because of the negative stereotypes associated with soldiers such as aggression. These problems affect their social and economic functionalism in the civilians. In other words, these veterans cannot seek medical attention for their mental problems because they cannot afford it. Leardmann, Powell & Smith (2013) indicated that most veterans who commit suicide are below 35 years and live below the federal poverty line. Leardmann, Powell & Smith (2013) indicated that one of the reasons behind the relationship between suicide and economic deprivation is lack of access to medical care. This logic explains why lack of medical care is accelerating suicidal rates among young veterans.

Further, Psychological studies have indicated that military forces do not have effective programs for screening their subjects for mental related problems. Lack of effective screening allows individuals with mental related issues to enlist in the army. For instance, Colpe et al. (2015) stated that one in five U.S soldiers have mental related problems such as depression, ADHD and anxiety before enlisting in the army. In addition to that, more than 8% of recruits have thought about ending their life while 1.1% of them had a previous suicide attempt. These figures were found after Colpe et al. (2015) had a confidential survey with 5,400 soldiers at different army installation across the United States. This phenomenon raises questions about the military screening of recruits. When these soldiers are enrolled in the army with medical related problems, they do not get any form of psychological intervention. As a result, the mental health problems of the recruits are intensified, and they eventually transform into suicide behavior (Logan et al., 2016). This logic explains why suicide rates of young veterans are increasing because of lack medical care.

The U.S Department of Veterans has also failed to create awareness about mental health intervention programs. Various studies have shown that the VA has laid down evidence-based mechanisms to deal with mental health problems among veterans. The mechanisms have been aligned with policy mandates that require VA to provide quality care to veterans. Therefore, VA uses systematic and tested strategies to handle mental related problems and to increase knowledge on veteran cognitive health (Logan et al., 2016). Furthermore, comparative data has shown that VA strategies outperform the private sector based on the quality of diagnosis and treatment of mental health disorders. In this case, comparative data has shown that VA provides better care than private institutions (Logan et al., 2016). However, despite the availability of the quality of care in VA most of the veterans are not aware of the programs. Most veterans indicated that most of the services provided by VA are not known to them which is an indication that the VA has not created awareness of their programs. This logic explains large percentages of young veterans who are not getting psychological help and hence the primary reason behind their increased suicidal behavior because they do not know where to seek help (Logan et al., 2016).

Also, most studies have also highlighted and questioned the process of implementation of VA programs. These studies have indicated that the VA has laid substantial strategies to deal with the problem of mental health among veterans. However, the implementation of these strategies has been poor, and thus the reason why young veterans do not receive quality care (Logan et al., 2016). Furthermore, the implementation is poor to the extent that the strategies are not readily available to the young veterans. Various young veterans have indicated that the care they get does not meet quality standards especially when it comes to follow-up exercise (Logan et al., 2016). The young veterans have revealed that the forms form of care they receive is given in a cookbook fashion which alienates any form of individualized care. The young veterans have stated that the process treatment involves getting pills and it does not have room for individualized care and follow up exercise. As a result, most of these young veteran’s refuse to seek help for their mental problems. Their problems become aggravated, and this leads to suicidal behavior. Ideally, implementation is a barrier to access to mental health services which in turn leads to suicidal behavior (Logan et al., 2016).

Conclusion

In summary, this paper has shown that suicide is one of the major problems for individuals serving in the army. Substantial evidence has been laid to show that suicide rates are highest among young veterans. Among other causes of suicide, lack of medical attention is one of the major causes of suicide among young veterans. Ideally, these veterans lack psychological intervention for mental related problems that are related to combat such as PTSD, depression, and anxiety which propel them to suicide. Factors that lead to a lack of medical or psychological attention include stigma, economic deprivation, location, lack of awareness and poor implementation of intervention strategies. These factors prevent young veterans from accessing clinical intervention to deal with symptoms of mental illness. As a result, the symptoms become aggravated, and they lead to suicidal behavior.

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