A New Take on Veteran Care

The trials of combat do not end on the battlefield. Even after years of distance, someone who once experienced war cannot just forget it happened. For many, simply getting through each day can be a difficult task. Studies show that the most common conditions faced by veterans include depression and posttraumatic stress disorder. Unfortunately, outlets for, and treatment of these conditions and others, are not always readily available to veterans, and experiencing such emotional and psychological trauma can make it difficult to relate to others.

A new type of program was released recently, and has spread rapidly, that works to combat the stigma associated with mental illness. Mental Health first aid is becoming more and more popular in association with all mental illness. It is an eight hour course that teaches how to appropriately react when someone around you is experiencing an episode associated with a mental health disorder, such as a panic attack. It was created by a nurse in Australia to make people less afraid of these types of situations, and to address the large percentage of people worldwide who experience mental health problems at any point in their lives.

The first aid program has, since its creation, been implemented to target several different health problems. From it has morphed mental health first aid training specifically for those around veterans. The need for a veteran-specific program is huge. Veterans who are detrimentally affected by combat usually return to a life that is alien to them — one with family and friends who may not understand how to react to depression and posttraumatic stress disorder in someone who they once deemed perfectly healthy. All of these people are affected by the military service of their veteran family member or friend, but they do not know how to react. Mental health first aid courses train them to react according to what a person experiencing a mental health crisis needs.

The veteran-specific mental health first aid programs have several goals. They are meant to decrease stigma related to mental illness, teach how to reach out to a person who may have withdrawn due to mental health problems, teach about veteran support outlets in a specific area or region, provide information about other resources, and to educate about common mental health problems associated with veterans.

Mental health first aid is no substitute for getting a veteran-in-need professional psychological help. However, it is useful in getting veterans who need help to seek it out. It also teaches others affected by a veteran’s service how to cope, and what resources to use. This is, all in all, a wonderful program that I hope reaches every region of these United States.