Mental health conditions affect millions of Americans. In fact, 1 in 5 Americans face a mental health condition in their lifetime. Those of us who don't can still be affected by a loved one's struggle with a mental health issue.
Over the years, the public perception of mental health conditions has changed for the better. However, there's still a lot that needs to be done. Awareness is the first step towards making a difference. If you're not sure where to begin, Mental Health Month this May is a great opportunity to learn more.
Mental Health Concerns For Veterans
Serving in the military can leave both physical and emotional scars. Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, traumatic brain injuries (TBI), military sexual trauma (MST) and substance abuse can all affect veterans long after their service is over. A long history of silence about the emotional effects of war makes it difficult for many veterans to talk about these issues. This can lead to veterans living with undiagnosed conditions.
Know The Warning Signs Of Mental Health Conditions
It's especially important to know the warning signs of mental health issues so that loved ones can be diagnosed and treated as early as possible. During Mental Health Month, one of the best things you can do is learn how to recognize symptoms of mental health conditions.
PTSD, TBI, depression and substance abuse are some of the most common mental health issues to be aware of.
- PTSD symptoms include nightmares, sleeplessness, losing interest in activities, anger, and irritability, and being constantly on guard.
- Depression can be hard to notice at first. Its symptoms include gaining or losing weight, eating more or less than usual, sleeping too much or too little, feelings of low self-esteem, using tobacco more frequently, misusing prescription drugs, or drinking more caffeinated or alcoholic beverages.
- TBI symptoms can include physical, cognitive or behavioral changes. Look out for difficulty speaking or hearing, loss of energy, change in senses such as taste or smell, forgetfulness, trouble paying attention, mood changes, or acting without thinking.
- Substance abuse is characterized by not being able to control drug or alcohol use, using more of a substance to feel the same effects, trying to hide the problem from others, and trying to cut back without being able to.
Each of these conditions has additional symptoms that you can't always notice in others. It's important to recognize that PTSD, TBI, and MST can also worsen other conditions such as depression or substance abuse. Early intervention has proven to be effective, but treatments can still help those who have been living with an undiagnosed mental health issue for years or even decades. It's never too late to seek help for a mental health condition.
Offering Support For Loved Ones
It's upsetting and frustrating seeing someone you love struggle with a mental health condition that they aren't ready to acknowledge themselves, especially when their condition affects you as well. If you recognize mental health symptoms in a loved one, there are several things you can do to start a conversation and offer support.
- Be responsive when the topic of mental health comes up. Express your concern and support if your loved one opens up to you.
- Start a conversation by asking questions about what your loved one is going through such as "Can we talk about what you're experiencing?" or "What do you want me to know about how you're feeling?"
- Ask if your loved one knows other people they can talk to who have been through similar experiences.
- Find out if your loved one is getting the support they need. If not, research options that might be helpful.
- Offer to help them find the help and resources they need. Mentalhealth.gov is a great starting place.
- Educate others so that they know how to be respectful and empathetic towards people with mental health issues.
Donate Your Car To Help Disabled Veterans
Nearly 3.8 million veterans are living with a service-connected disability, and mental health issues such as TBI and PTSD are major sources of disability. If you'd like to support disabled veterans during Mental Health Month, it's as easy as donating your car to Vehicles For Veterans. Our car donation program benefits programs for disabled veterans. To donate your car, please call 1-855-811-4838 or fill out an online car donation form. We take care of everything for you!