On average, 20 Veterans die by suicide a day, and experts are concerned that the current pandemic will cause that number to increase.
This extreme situation of isolation, unprecedented unemployment, and uncertainty could compound feelings of sadness, depression, and isolation for anyone, regardless of whether they have pre-existing mental health issues. But for Veterans already fighting conditions like PTSD and depression, this situation is dire. So much so that Veteran Suicide Prevention is the #1 priority for the Department of Veteran Affairs right now.
As isolation continues, experts say it could contribute to more deaths by suicide, and fear of continued isolation can send Veterans with PTSD spiraling. The financial strain of the crisis is also greatly concerning as low-income Veterans experiencing or facing lay-offs struggle to provide for their families. Cut off from friends, loved ones, and services such as support groups or counseling, our nation’s service members living with mental health issues are now more vulnerable and alone than ever.
Our Veterans and military families have always been there for us. And if there’s one thing we’ve learned during these immensely unusual and trying times, it’s just how much we as humans need each other. If our physical health requires us to stay apart right now, we need to be there for our Veterans and their families in every other way possible.
Confronting The Veteran Mental Health Crisis
To take a closer look at the Veteran mental health crisis and how the COVID crisis is exacerbating the risk of Veteran suicide, we spoke with Dr. Jill Palmer, Senior Director of Clinic Operations at Endeavors.
“It takes other humans to move past the tricks the brain can play on us when we are dealing with depression, trauma, and pain,” Dr. Palmer says. Many former soldiers, marines, and sailors who sacrificed so much for our freedoms are now facing another battle entirely on their own: Mental Health. Without the support and services they need to manage and overcome these issues, Veterans are at risk of choosing what Dr. Palmer calls “a permanent solution to a temporary problem.”
“Veterans are the ultimate problem solvers,” Dr. Palmer says. Truer words have never been spoken. Problem-solving is what they are recruited and trained to do…it’s how they save lives and complete missions.
But sometimes the skill that helps them save lives can make it so hard to save their own.
As Dr. Palmer explains, problem-solving tends to lean heavily on an “I can do it myself” mentality that can reinforce the stigma against seeking help for mental health issues. This notion is then compounded by a lack of access to competent mental health care and wellness services. “Access to and the need for quick, compassionate, affordable, and competent care for someone who is mired in suicidal thinking is STILL not easily available for our Veterans,” Dr. Palmer emphasizes.
But Endeavors is working to change that. Here’s how…
Veteran Mental Health And Wellness Services Designed For You
At Endeavors, we are dedicated to solving the problem of Veteran suicide, but we understand that mental health care is not one-size-fits-all. That’s why we developed an individualized approach, treating the individual…not just the problem. When COVID-19 hit, we knew we had to make our programs available to those in need, remotely.
Although our Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinics in San Antonio, Killeen, and El Paso are currently closed to the public until further notice, our clinicians are still providing the same high-quality one-on-one and group care to Veterans and military families via Telehealth. Telehealth is face-to-face therapy delivered online via smartphone, tablet, or computer. Using video-conferencing, patients and clinicians can hold appointments in real-time, combating the threat of feelings of isolation and increased anxiety, depression, PTSD symptoms during this time. To contact our clinicians and learn about your Telehealth options, call 1-833-CVN-VETS, or visit our webpage.
- Virtual Support Groups
Right now, we’re trying to do everything at once — work, keep the kids busy and educated, stock the fridge, etc — and we’re doing it all from home. Working and parenting have taken on a whole new identity, and we’re suddenly navigating a new normal all on our own. To help Veterans and military families, the Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinics at Endeavors also offer virtual support groups and workshops such as the Parenting Enrichment Program. These sessions are all free and available to Veterans and military families online. Visit our San Antonio, El Paso, and Killeen Military Family Clinic Facebook pages to stay up-to-date on new and upcoming support groups!
- Emergency Rental Assistance
Endeavors recently secured $3.25 million from the Department of Veteran Affairs via the CARES Act to financially assist low-income Veterans impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. This money is available for qualifying Veterans and their families laid off due to COVID and in need of rental or utility assistance.
Endeavors has a limited timeframe to disperse the $3.25 million financial assistance provided, so we encourage Veterans to contact their local Endeavors office immediately. Our case managers are currently working remotely to assist you and your family today. If you or someone you know needs help with rental or utility assistance, please give Endeavors a call today or learn more at www.endeavors.org/SSVFcares.
About Endeavors’ Veteran Supportive Services
Endeavors is a longstanding national non-profit that provides an array of programs and services in support of children, families, Veterans, and those struggling with mental illness and other disabilities. Endeavors serves vulnerable people in crisis through innovative personalized services. Endeavors provides support for Veterans and military families for over eighty counties through nine offices across Texas. For more information, please visit www.endeavors.org.
About The Cohen Veterans Network
Cohen Veterans Network is a 501(c)(3) national not for profit philanthropic network of mental health clinics for post-9/11 veterans and their families. CVN focuses on improving mental health outcomes, via a network of outpatient mental health clinics for veterans and their families in high-need communities, in which trained clinicians deliver holistic evidence-based care to treat mental health conditions. The network currently has 16 clinics in operation serving veterans and their families across the country. Learn more about Cohen Veterans Network.