Veterans Mental Health Stories Brought to Life through Artistic Stage Production

erasing-the-distance-logo-1This is the fourth in our series honoring Veterans during the month of November. In this post, we explore the innovative work being done by the theatrical troupe Erasing the Distance. Founded by Brighid O’Shaoughnessy the current production running in Chicago, brings voices to Veterans living with mental health conditions that were brought on while serving our country in the wars and conflicts of the last 50 years.

Raising the Curtain on Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome

Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) is a major mental health concern for our country’s Veterans and their families. According to the National Center for PTSD, PTSD occurs in approximately:

  • 11-20% of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars (Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom) Veterans
  • 10% of Gulf War (Desert Storm) Veterans
  • 30% of Vietnam Veterans

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What Are the Barriers Preventing Veterans from Receiving Quality Mental Health Care?

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Thomas J. Berger
Ph.D., Executive Director of the Veterans Health Council for Vietnam Veterans of America

CFYM continues our series examining the state of mental health care provided in VA hospitals and centers. In today’s post Tom Berger, Executive Director of the Veterans Health Council for Vietnam Veterans of America examines whether or not the VA is meeting its own policies outlining how long a vet should wait to receive a mental health evaluation.

First, we must recognize that the Veterans Health Administration (VA) has made some significant progress in its efforts to improve the quality of mental health care for America’s veterans. For example, although not all mental health clinical staff has yet been trained, VA should be commended for its system-wide adoption (finally) of evidence-based cognitive behavioral treatment modalities for PTSD. In addition, the development of various web-based program applications and social media mental health outreach campaigns reflect a much better effort to reach America’s veterans. But while these efforts are laudable, there are reasons to believe they have not gone far enough, especially when accessing the VA mental health diagnoses and treatment programs.

As far back as April 2012, an Inspector General (IG)’s report concluded that the VA does not have a reliable or accurate method of determining whether they are providing veterans timely access to mental health care services and that the VA is unable to make informed decisions on how to improve the provision of mental health care to veteran patients due to the lack of meaningful access data. This is absolutely unacceptable

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Can Embracing the Recovery Model Lead to Better Mental Health Treatment Outcomes for Veterans?

Today, we continue to honor our veterans with a personal story from CFYM reader Toni Ankrom, U.S Navy, Retired.  Recognizing the impact peer support had in her own life, Toni pays it forward by advocating for access to quality mental health care for Veterans and challenges mental health organizations to continue to embrace the Recovery treatment model. 

I am a Gulf War Era retired, disabled Navy Veteran. I spent 20 years in the U.S. Navy. During ten of those active duty years I lived with bipolar disorder symptoms. I experienced most of the symptoms of hypomania and some of mania. I would stay awake for many days on end…energy, energy, energy…fast, fast, fast, with unusual creative thinking. These episodes were followed by the darkest depression which my wonderful husband helped me through – over and over again. The military finally treated the depression with medication calling it “situational depression” and ignored the mania because I could work and work like the Energizer Bunny. I was very lucky to have such a supportive husband. He made sure I got up, showered, ate, and looked presentable for duty. I have to say that I didn’t feel presentable.  I wanted to crawl into a closet and cover up with a blanket.

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Meeting the Mental Health Needs of Post 9/11 Veterans

Ralph IbsonBy Ralph Ibson, National Policy Director, Wounded Warrior Project

Care For Your Mind is honoring all veterans with a series of posts examining policy issues and advocacy projects around access to quality mental health care. In this first post, Ralph Ibson, National Policy Director, Wounded Warrior Project shares his views on the treatment options available to post 9/11 veterans through the VA health care system.

Efforts to provide a continuum of care to veterans

With high percentages of post-9/11 veterans now experiencing war-related mental health problems, the VA health care system faces a generational challenge. As Dr. Charles Hoge, a leading researcher in the field described it, “veterans remain reluctant to seek care, with half of those in need not utilizing mental health services. Among veterans who begin PTSD treatment with psychotherapy or medications, a high percentage drop out…with only 50% of veterans seeking care and a 40% recovery rate, current strategies will effectively reach no more than 20% of all veterans needing PTSD treatment.”

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Workplace Mental Health with Bob Boorstin

During last week’s Kennedy Forum, we had the opportunity sit down with the moderator of the “Getting into the Workplace – and Getting the Most Out of It” panel, Bob Boorstin. The former Director of Public Policy at Google and Clinton Administration official hosted a valuable discussion with panelists on learning to be comfortable and open with your mental health condition in the workplace. “There’s no question that sharing information about our mental health issues will be positive,” said Boorstin, who echoed his opinion in a short video interview after the panel.

An Interview with B...

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Are You Working While Ill?

baker-whiteMyths and Facts About Paid Sick Leave

Andy Baker-White, JD, MPH, Associate Director
The Network for Public Health Law – Mid-States Region
www.networkforphl.org

When you’re not feeling well, do you go to work? Many of us go to our workplace when we’re not feeling well because staying home can mean lost wages, increased workload, missed shifts or deadlines, and loss of momentum on projects. While legislation can’t help with most of that, some states and cities have moved to require employers to provide paid sick time to employees. Eliminating one worry – loss of pay – can entice people to stay home when sick, and thereby help to prevent people from getting sicker, infecting others, and adversely impacting the workplace. In today’s CFYM post, Andy Baker-White reveals truths and untruths about paid sick leave.

It can be difficult for many workers to stay home from work when they are sick. Those who do choose to stay home when sick often suffer lost wages and run the risk of being fired. In fact,

  • close to 40 percent of private-sector U.S. employees do not receive any sort of paid sick days
  • 11 percent of respondents to a 2008 survey by the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center reported losing a job after taking time off from work for an illness
  • 13 percent in the same survey, said they were told they would be fired or suspended if they missed work because of illness

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Why Communities Matter In Addressing Mental Health

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In 1996, then-First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton elevated the saying, “It takes a village,” in talking about the various outside influences of caring for and raising children. All politics aside, the impact of thousands of communities in treating patients with mental illnesses cannot be overstated – everyone has a role to play and how we go about addressing these illnesses will have far-reaching societal implications. This was the primary focus of a morning panel discussion at today’s Kennedy Forum in Boston.

Collaboration doesn’t exist without education. Panel Moderator Chelsea Clint...

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First Kennedy Forum Panel Spotlights Past and Future of Mental Health Care

kennedy forum logo

Care For Your Mind is here today at The Kennedy Forum, and the daylong conference kicked off early this morning with the first panel discussion that looked at the historical significance of President Kennedy’s mental health initiative. This month marks the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s signing of the Community Mental Health Act, a law that provided federal funding for community mental health centers in the United States. In addition, it helped raise the conversation around mental illness in this country.

Mental Health and the Civil Rights Movement

The discussion focused on exami...

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