Call 24/7 for a no-cost Confidential Assessment at (888) 603-0020

Health Library

Helping Veterans Struggling With Their Mental Health

Helping Veterans Struggling With Their Mental Health

The brave men and women who have served our country often struggle with invisible wounds—mental health challenges that make it difficult to transition back to civilian life. If you’re worried about a Veteran friend or family member who is struggling with the complexities of their mental health, taking the time to understand the challenges Veterans face can help you better support them on the path to healing.  

How Military Life Can Lead to Mental Health Struggles 

Serving in the military can provide a sense of purpose and accomplishment, our veterans often struggle to find a sense of purpose and comradery after separating from the military. Military lifestyles can introduce risk factors and stressors on the service member that can impact service members throughout their career and after service. High-stress environments. The pressure of training, operational demands, and the potential for life-threatening situations can contribute to chronic stress. 

  • Physical and mental strain. The demanding physical and mental requirements of military service can lead to exhaustion and burnout
  • Institutional factors. Military culture and norms can make it difficult for those who are struggling to seek help due to concerns about career implications and perceptions of weakness. 
  • Separation from loved ones. Deployments often involve long periods away from home—leading to separation from family and friends which contributes to feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and depression. 
  • Financial stress. Financial strain can create stress. Veterans may also have difficulty finding suitable employment upon returning to civilian life. 

Risk Factors  

Mental health issues do not discriminate based on age, gender, race, or socioeconomic background. However, several factors can make a Veteran more vulnerable to experiencing mental health difficulties related to their military service.  

  • Preexisting mental health conditions. Veterans who had preexisting mental health conditions before entering the military may be at a higher risk of experiencing exacerbated symptoms or new challenges related to their service. 
  • Past trauma. Veterans with adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), in addition to the stressors and trauma associated with military service, may face a cumulative impact on their mental health.  
  • Multiple deployments. Veterans who have undergone multiple deployments may face additional challenges as they deal with repeated exposure to combat and prolonged periods of separation from family and support systems. 
  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI). Veterans who have experienced head injuries during their service, such as from explosions, may develop mental health symptoms as a result. 
  • Other serious physical injuries and disabilities. Veterans who sustained physical injuries or developed disabilities during their service face added stressors and challenges that can impact mental health. 
  • Military sexual trauma (MST). Veterans who have experienced sexual assault or harassment during their military service may be at an increased risk of mental health issues, including PTSD and depression. 

Symptoms That Can Be a Cause for Concern 

Mental health disorders can only be diagnosed by a professional. However, if you notice any of the following symptoms in your loved one, this is an indication that treatment might be needed. 

  • Social isolation. The transition back to civilian life can be difficult, but a Veteran who is having trouble reconnecting with family and friends or reintegrating into the community may be struggling with their mental health. 
  • Anger and irritability. Difficulty managing anger, frequent irritability, and outbursts of frustration can be related to trauma and mental health concerns—especially if a Veteran did not have trouble managing their emotions prior to service. 
  • Depression. Depression is most often described as feelings of sadness or hopelessness. However, it can also include a loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and special interests, changes in appetite, and difficulty concentrating. 
  • Anxiety. Anxiety can manifest as excessive worry, restlessness, and irritability. Veterans may also experience physical symptoms such as muscle tension. 
  • Sleep disturbances. Sleep-related issues, including insomnia, nightmares, or disrupted sleep patterns, are associated with many mental health disorders.  
  • Flashbacks. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can result from exposure to traumatic events such as military combat. Flashbacks are the most noted symptom of PTSD, but other symptoms can include nightmares, hypervigilance, and avoidance of reminders of the trauma. 
  • Substance abuse. Some Veterans may turn to substances such as alcohol or drugs as a way of coping with stress, trauma, or mental health issues. This can lead to the development of a substance use disorder that exacerbates existing mental health symptoms and creates additional challenges. 

In severe cases, Veterans may experience thoughts of self-harm or suicide. Any mention of self-harm or suicidal thoughts requires immediate action. If you believe your loved one is in danger, call 988, option one to connect with the Veterans Crisis Line, they will work to support and dispatch emergency services to support the veteran in need.. Remove firearms, knives, medications, and other dangerous items from the area and stay with them until help arrives. 

Let Us Help You Explore Treatment Options for Your Loved One 

If you’re concerned about a Veteran friend or family member, call Raleigh Oaks Behavioral Health in Garner, North Carolina to explore your options. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to assist with questions you might have about our inpatient mental health treatment programs.  

Learn more

About programs offered at Raleigh Oaks Behavioral Health

Scroll to Top