Category Veterans

My Mental Health Care on Base: A Perfect Storm

Sarah Davies Photo

Sarah Davies, Families for Depression Awareness Volunteer

I like to think that my issues with the mental health care on our Army post are the result of a perfect storm. I live with Bipolar II, which I know how to self-regulate for the most part. There are times, however, where either I know I need to check in or my primary care manager (PCM) recommends a visit. At our current duty station, I have seen both a psychiatrist and psychologist at the recommendation of my PCM. Both visits have left me wanting better care. The psychiatrist put me on an anti-depressant, which is contra-indicated for Bipolar as it can spin me into a manic state (which it did). I stopped taking the meds and asked to be seen by a psychiatrist to figure out a self-care plan without medication. I saw him one time—during which he allowed me to speak for maybe five minutes out of an hour. He asked for my background—during which I mentioned my college education—and he went off on a tangent about a woman he dated that went to my alma mater and how attractive the women there seem to be. My lack of confidence in his ability to listen to me, his one job, kept me from returning.

I mention all of this because I believed my bad experiences were just a result of those doctors not listening to me; like I said, a perfect storm of incompetence that I was unlucky enough to be part of. When I said that to my husband, he countered my assessment. It’s just a regular storm. It’s what too many spouses and service members face when they go to mental health [services].

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In Honor of Veterans Day, Here’s How Our Servicemen and Women Can Get the Mental Health Help They Need

Michelle Kees Photo

Care For Your Mind acknowledges and appreciates the collaboration of the National Network of Depression Centers in developing this post.

Michelle R. Kees, Ph.D., University of Michigan

On November 11th, our country will pause to celebrate a courageous, resilient group of men and women—our nation’s Veterans. In the words of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Day is a day to honor these heroes for “their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.”

As they return home from foreign conflict, these men and women deserve to succeed and thrive in their civilian lives, but may need physical, mental, and/or emotional support in order to do so.

On this important holiday, we wanted to share information about some of the challenges Veterans are facing as they make the transition to life at home—and the programs that are in place to help them.

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How We Can Support Veterans in Need of Mental Health Help

Care for Your Mind acknowledges and appreciates the collaboration of the National Network of Depression Centers in developing this series.

Sanjai Rao, M.D., VA Medical Center, San Diego

In my previous post, I addressed the challenging state of mental health care for our nation’s returning veterans and their increased risk of suicide. It’s crucial that we step up and ensure that mental health care is available to all former servicemen and women who need it. Now, I propose some possible solutions.

First, a disclaimer: although I work for the VA, I am writing this post as a private citizen, not a VA employee. The views expressed here are entirely my own and not in any way meant to be reflective of those of VA leadership.

Expanding the VA
In order to ensure the best possible outcomes for veterans in need, the VA needs to grow. With more resources, we can hire and train more mental health professionals, and therefore treat more patients. As I discussed earlier, the VA is by far the best place for veterans to get state-of-the art, evidence-based mental health care, but the VA system doesn’t have the capacity to treat everyone as quickly as they need. We do the best we can with what we have, but ultimately Congress regulates our size and budget. It’s up to our elected officials to provide the funding we need to increase our capacity.

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Returning Veterans Face Many Mental Health Risks

Care for Your Mind acknowledges and appreciates the collaboration of the National Network of Depression Centers in developing this series.

Returning Veterans Face Many Mental Health Risks—We Need More Resources to Help Them
Sanjai Rao, M.D., VA Medical Center, San Diego

Of the 1.7 million Veterans returning from Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), an estimated 30% are suffering from mental health issues. That’s hundreds of thousands of individuals in need of psychological care and, for those of us who work in Veterans Affairs (VA), it’s our responsibility to provide it.

I’m a psychiatrist at the VA Medical Center in San Diego, one of the busiest VA facilities in the country. San Diego has the largest population of returning Veterans of any city and we provide mental health care for thousands of them each year.

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