This Veterans Day we want to thank and remember all veterans for their service and sacrifice.
It becomes so easy and routine to say “thank you for your service,” and this year I want to task everyone to take time to really recognize the extent of veterans’ commitment to their country’s freedom, and the fact that their risk their well-being, and even life, for the common good of the United States. There seems to be no way to truly repay veterans for their dedication.
One thing I think we as a community can do collectively to support our Veterans is to advocate for their mental health by reducing stigma of receiving services and make it easier to access services.
Due to high levels of stress and constant combat and noncombat challenges, military personnel have a higher risk of abusing substances such as alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drugs to cope with mental health disorders like anxiety, PTSD, and more. Additionally, in 2019, Veteran suicide rate is was projected at 17+ veterans dying by suicide every day- a sobering number.
Some things we can do to protect the veteran in our lives is to be proactive about their mental health.
Educate yourself on the signs and symptoms of PTSD, anxiety, TBI’s, and depression. Educate yourself so you can be aware of what to look out for and how to intervene.
In Western New York, there are more than 100,000 Veterans living in our communities.
One organization that strives to ‘bring people, resources, and organizations together to improve the quality of life for those who have served or are services” is The Veterans One-stop Center of WNY! (Our neighbors upstairs of our downtown 1280 Main street clinic and Urgent Mental Health Addictions Care Center).
They value veterans and their families, working to get them access to services and support to help them reach their full potential such as housing, financial counseling, education, employment, and more.
Find out more about them and access help by calling 716-898-0110 or by visiting www.vocwny.org!
If you have a loved one who is a Veteran and you think he or she may be struggling, don’t hesitate to reach out and ask them. Starting the conversation with them may be the first step towards their healing, and even save their life.
By Shannon Schwarberg
Senior Program Manager, Special Project Development
Spectrum Health and Human Services