Supporting the Behavioral Health Needs of Our Nation’s Veterans

On Veterans Day, we set aside time to honor the contributions of those who have served. Throughout our nation’s history, millions of Americans have answered the call to uniformed service, and they often continue to lead in their communities once they are out of uniform. Every year, approximately 200,000 men and women transition out of active-duty service and return to civilian life.

This adjustment requires Veterans and their families to reorient their lives across multiple domains including employment, finances, housing, social supports, and health. Life’s transitions are inherently stressful for all of us. They produce changes in relationships and support networks, and they challenge our identities and self-perceptions. Transitions for Veterans can be especially burdensome due to shifting from the unique collective culture of military service to shaping a more individualized role in how they live, work, and interact with others. Studies indicate that 44 percent to 72 percent experience high levels of stress during transition from military to civilian life.

Data also suggests that approximately half of those who recently separated from military service may not immediately connect with available resources, benefits, and services. Without support, more complex behavioral health concerns might emerge. In 2020, approximately 5.2 million Veterans experienced a behavioral health condition. More telling are the numbers of Veterans who were not engaged in treatment; more than half of Veterans with a mental illness did not receive treatment within the past year. Additionally, more than 90 percent of those experiencing a substance use disorder did not receive treatment. This data highlights that our friends, family, and community members may be suffering in silence and that barriers to care exist, including stigma.

Behavioral health is essential to overall health, and we all have a role in ensuring that service members, Veterans and their families are prepared for their next steps in life as they transition.


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