How to spot the signs of mental illness in a veteran
Having experienced the rigors of military service and potentially combat, veterans often face unique challenges in their post-service life. The traumatic events and prolonged exposure to stress can leave them more susceptible to mental health disorders than the general population. Thus, as people who care about them—be it as friends, family, or community members—we need to be vigilant and educated about spotting the early signs of mental illness. Here are a few things to look for:
Mood swings and increased irritability
Veterans might show frequent and unpredictable mood changes. They might swing from feeling elated to being extremely sad or angry without a clear reason. They may display a shorter temper than usual, get frustrated easily, or show disproportionate reactions to minor issues.
Feelings of hopelessness:
Constantly talking about feeling trapped or expressing a belief that things will never get better can be alarming indicators.
Nightmares and fear of sleep
Some veterans may relive traumatic events in their dreams, causing them to wake up in distress. Some may avoid sleeping altogether, fearing the recurrence of traumatic dreams, and even if they spend long hours in bed, they may often toss and turn without getting restorative sleep.
Isolation and withdrawal
Veterans experiencing mental health issues may prefer to spend time alone, avoiding gatherings or meetings they previously enjoyed. They might not enjoy activities they used to love, from hobbies to spending time with loved ones.
Self-medication and substance abuse
Some veterans might use alcohol or drugs to cope with their mental distress or numb their emotions. They may develop a reliance on substances, leading to increased consumption over time.
How can you help support veterans’ mental health?
Recognizing mental health symptoms in veterans can profoundly impact their well-being, and your approach can make a world of difference. First and foremost, it’s crucial to empathize with their situation. Understand that they may be going through a tough time and be ready to lend a compassionate ear without passing judgment. Avoid pushing them into conversations or situations they may not be ready for; instead, allow them to open up at their own pace.
Another vital aspect of supporting veterans is encouraging them to seek professional help. Gently suggest that they consider therapy, counseling, or support groups, emphasizing the strength it takes to ask for assistance in dealing with their mental health challenges. Staying informed about local resources available for veterans is also important. Familiarize yourself with helplines and veteran service organizations in your area, as these can be invaluable sources of support.
Furthermore, it’s essential to maintain your support over the long term. Recognize that recovery and adjustment for veterans can be a lengthy journey, and consistency in your support can make a significant difference in their lives.
Dealing with the complexities of mental health can be incredibly challenging; remember, you are not alone in this battle. If you or someone you know is exhibiting the above symptoms, don’t hesitate to reach out to Serene Health for help. We offer a wide variety of behavioral health and mental health services, including convenient online therapy options.
Seeking help is a sign of strength, and we encourage you to take the vital step towards healing and reclaiming your mental health. Call us at 844-737-3638 or visit www.serenehealth.com to schedule an appointment with one of our therapists.