VA San Diego Healthcare System tagged posts

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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