After returning home, many veterans face obstacles in finding the mental health resources they need. Veterans are 15 times more likely to develop post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) than civilians. In fact, 11 to 20 percent of post-9/11 veterans struggle with PTSD when they return home.
Military experience is a life-changing time for people and aging veterans can still experience vivid memories years after service. When retiring, veterans' PTSD symptoms can become enhanced due to the stark differences in civilian life. Opening up to a family member, getting involved in a support group and speaking with a mental health professional reduces isolation and can help veterans suffering from PTSD immensely.
Outside of VA clinics, many veterans aren't aware of the many free help centers, crisis hotlines and clinics available. Below is a collection of nationally available mental health resources that veterans can take advantage of at no cost. Hundreds of local resources are available for veterans as well.
In case of a mental health crisis, call 911 or a hotline right away for help.
- National Suicide Prevention Hotline. Dial 1-800-273-TALK (8255). When prompted, press '1' to be connected to a VA call center. This hotline also provides a confidential chat option for veterans on the Veterans Crisis Line website.
- Domestic Violence National Hotline. Call 1-800-799-7233 or 1-800-787-3224. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is staffed 24 hours a day by trained counselors who can provide crisis assistance and other information. Resources can also be found on The National Domestic Violence Hotline website.
- National Child Abuse Hotline. Call 1-800-422-4453. This hotline is dedicated to preventing child abuse and is staffed 24 hours a day by professional counselors. Additional resources are available on the Child Help website.
In non-emergency situations, other hotlines can help connect you and your family to resources. Here are a few options:
- National Veterans Foundation. Call 1-888-777-4443 or visit the National Veterans Foundation website. The National Veterans Foundation's mission is to offer crisis management, information referrals and outreach for veterans in need.
- Homelessness Hotline. If you are currently experiencing homelessness or are on the verge of homelessness, call the VA’s homelessness hotline at 1-877-424-3838.
- SAMHSA National Helpline. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) helpline offers free, confidential information on where to find mental health and substance abuse resources. You can also search for mental health treatment centers on the SAMHSA website.
- It's Up to Us. Call (888) 724-7240 or visit their website. This San Diego-based organization offers an informational access line for veterans in need of mental health resources.
Free Clinics And Outreach
In addition to VA clinics, several other national programs provide free mental health counseling and outreach.
- The Soldiers Project. This program helps soldiers and veterans by providing free, 100 percent confidential psychological treatment. So far, the program has locations in Chicago, Houston, Long Island, New York City, Sacramento, southern California, Pennsylvania, Washington state and Wyoming. Find local contact information on The Soldiers Project website.
- Give An Hour. This organization connects you to a local mental health clinic for a free, in-person counseling session. Volunteer mental health professionals offer help with anxiety, depression, substance abuse, PTSD, grief and any other mental health concerns. Find a local mental health provider by searching Give An Hour's provider directory.
- Homecoming For Veterans. The Homecoming For Veterans directory includes a list of clinicians who have agreed to see veterans for 20-minute sessions at no cost.
Free Online Communities And Peer Support
Many websites offer veterans a way to connect directly with other veterans for support.
- Patients Like Me. In partnership with Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), is a community where you can learn from others who are living in similar situations and connect with people who understand what you're going through. Sign up for free at the Patients Like Me website.
- Vets 4 Warriors. This organization offers veterans and active duty military free, confidential peer support from other veterans. Connect with them on the Vets 4 Warriors website or by calling 855-838-8255.
- Mission Reconnect. Through this program, veterans can practice mind-body techniques that increase mental well-being and resilience. Learn more about the program on the Mission Reconnect website.
If you don't know where to start, many websites offer free consultations that connect veterans with the resources they need. Most referral services don't offer mental health help directly. Rather, they point veterans in the right direction to find the help they need.
- Make The Connection. This website offers veterans an easy way to search for resources through the VA, SAMHSA or the National Resource Directory in one place. Use their Resource Locator to get started.
- Real Warriors. Veterans can connect with a trained health resource consultant for free using the Live Chat feature on Real Warriors. Consultants don't offer medical advice, but they can connect you to resources that do.
- IAVA's Rapid Response Referral Program. For help navigating VA resources and finding mental health help and other veterans' resources, try the Rapid Response Referral Program.
How You Can Help Veterans
You can also help veterans by donating a car to Vehicles For Veterans. Our car donation program benefits disabled veterans and helps fund resources they need for a better life. Donate an unwanted car, truck, boat, RV or motorcycle to help veterans today! You'll even receive free towing and a tax deduction. Please call 1-855-811-4838 or fill out an online car donation form to get started with your car donation today.