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In 2018, a study was released showing that suicide rates had spiked among veterans in Tennessee – particularly among those aged 55-74. Veterans who return from combat face a number of health challenges, not the least of which is poor mental health.

While veterans are eligible for a number of benefits, there is a significant lack of resources available to make sure families know how to obtain them. Legal counsel is typically needed to navigate an often complicated system where they’re embedded, particularly entitlements to medical assistance.

How to provide mental health support

One of the greatest things you can do as a relative to help a former service member in your life with medical struggles is to assist them in getting access to the full benefits available to them. However, small things you can do day-to-day to support mental health are also important, starting with understanding the most common afflictions veterans face:

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): this mental illness occurs after a person has encountered a traumatic event. For veterans, this often involves having been in combat, witnessing people die and being surrounded by explosions. Symptoms of PTSD include nightmares, triggers or flashbacks causing distress, anger, and substance abuse.
  • Depression: as one of the most prevalent mental health issues, depression is insidious, casting heaviness over the quality of a person’s life. Symptoms of depression include diminished enjoyment or interests, low energy, sleep disruptions, lack of concentration or appetite, mood swings and sadness or overwhelm.
  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI): some symptoms of a TBI can go undetected. They usually occur from a headwound sustained from an explosion, and can build up over the course of a veteran’s lifetime from falls and other concussive impacts. Headaches, memory issues, drowsiness, personality changes and mood swings are all hallmarks of a TBI, and can occur on a spectrum of mild to severe. All forms are serious, regardless of severity.
  • Anxiety: often occurring along with depression and PTSD, anxiety can show up in a number of ways. It creates a sense of unease, often leading to panic attacks and feelings of being unwell. It can begin to interrupt everyday life and impact personal relationships.
  • Suicide: any of the above mental health issues can lead to suicidal thoughts. If a person you know is contemplating suicide, help support them by taking them seriously and referring them to the Veterans Crisis Line. You can also help them seek professional mental health care.

Veterans benefits will usually help cover mental health crisis and treatment. Speak with a lawyer to make sure your loved one gets the full coverage they deserve.