As of 2014, there are over 417,000 Veterans living in the state of South Carolina. According to SAMHSA, only 50% of returning service members receive the mental health treatment they need. How can we help our Veterans and our communities thrive?
Be Informed Military Members and Veterans in our communities have had different life experiences than civilians. They have different triggers and sensitivities that civilians don’t always understand. Be aware that things such as fireworks, cars backfiring and other loud noises can trigger a Mental Health Crisis in a Veteran’s life.
2. Take a Mental Health First Aid Course If you don’t know much about mental health, don’t worry! There are many ways to learn the truth about mental health and how to react during a mental health crisis situation. Mental Health First Aid is an 8-hour course that helps the public identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders. Just as CPR training helps a layperson without medical training assist an individual following a heart attack, Adult Mental Health First Aid training helps a layperson assist someone experiencing a mental health crisis. SC Thrive provides trainings throughout the state of South Carolina and you can register HERE.
3. Encourage Awareness Do your neighbors down the street know what to do in a mental health crisis? Does your cousin know what PTSD means? Have you talked to your coworkers about Traumatic Brain Injuries? Do your friends know about the mental health issues that our Military Members and Veterans face on a daily basis? Don’t forget to take what you’ve learned in your Mental Health First Aid course and share your knowledge with your world. You might even encourage someone to take a course themselves! The more truth people know about mental health, the easier it may be for someone to admit they need help.
4. Listen If you know a Military Member or a Veteran, listen to them. If they want to talk about their service, by all means listen. However, listening can go beyond storytelling. Sometimes listening means looking for a call for help. When they mention that something is bothering them, listen. “Listen” to their actions, as well. If they are visibly upset about something or uncomfortable, use your new ALGEE (Mental Health First Aid Action Plan) skills to assess and react to the situation in a way that creates safety and comfort for the individual.
5. Encourage Professional Help The Military Members and Veterans you know may be experiencing a mental health issue. They may also be uncomfortable finding assistance for their mental health issues. It’s possible that they may not know where to turn for help. If you know a Military Member or Veteran going through a mental health crisis, let them know that there are options for help, including doctors, self-help and peer-to-peer support.