Tomorrow, we honor our veterans for their service to our country. Frankly, every day should be Veterans Day. I am personally honored to have had a father who was a member of The Greatest Generation. He served his country honorably and heroically in World War II. We have been very honored in our country to have so many other brave and courageous military personnel.

Rarely can you talk about issues impacting veterans without referencing mental health. There are never enough resources and funding to help veterans and their families.  MHANYS and our members across the State are very dedicated to the issues of veterans mental health. We are pleased that every year we have veterans represented at our Legislative Day and that our public policy agenda always includes increased resources for veterans and their families.

MHANYS Recommendations Moving Forward:

There are a lot of experts in the field who have developed some excellent resources. They are easily accessible on many websites. At the end of our recommendations, there is a link from SAMHSA regarding some of their resources. That said, we also have developed a series of recommendations as well that are listed below.

Joseph Dwyer Veterans Peer to Peer Program:

Now more than ever, we have to fight for resources and treatment options. One of the programs that is working well in New York is the Joseph Dwyer Veterans Peer to Peer Program. This model uses peers with mental health issues who have served in the military to work with returning vets. Probably, the leading reason that fifty percent of returning vets don’t seek treatment is the stigma associated with the illness. One of the most significant selling points of the Dwyer Project is that stigma is greatly reduced because of the role of peers in outreach and engagement.

The New York State Senate has funded this program and MHANYS will continue to speak out in support and expansion as well as greater involvement around family engagement services. Several of the MHAs around the State run these programs and the linkage between veterans organizations and MHAs has helped provide greater mental health services for the veterans population.

Point of Contact – Feel free to contact MHANYS if you want to find out more about the Dwyer Project in your region of the State.

Family Engagement for Military Families:

The mental health impact for returning veterans families is incredibly significant. Among to recent statistics regarding family involvement; a prolonged deployment results in 36% of spouses having at least one mental health diagnosis. Children are also dramatically impacted.

A few years ago MHANYS had grant funding to utilize family engagement tools that we had successfully used for Parents with Psychiatric Disabilities, for returning veterans families in Jefferson and Nassau Counties. Tools like WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plans), Advanced Directives, Trauma Informed Care and Mental Health Education were incredibly effective in engaging family members. The combination of these tools is part of MHANYS Care Path Program. Replicating these kind of family engagement strategies statewide for returning veterans would be a very helpful tool.

Point of Contact – For more information, you can contact Deb Faust at dfaust@mhanys.org

Suicide Prevention Efforts:

The New York State Office of Mental Health recently put out their Suicide Prevention Plan. There are some very strong recommendations that came out of this report that will be helpful in stemming the tide of veterans suicides. Community Support Services,  Coalition Building, The Zero Suicide Initiative, Public Awareness Campaigns and Social Media Platforms when implemented more robustly will be of great help to the veterans community. The link below will bring you directly to the Plan.

Point of Contact – New York State Office of Mental Health http://www.omh.ny.gov/omhweb/suicide_prevention/

Mental Health First Aid, ASIST and SafeTALK Trainings

Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) has been an effective national tool in educating the community about how to respond to an individual in a mental health crisis. This eight hour training trainings specifically geared to veterans. MHFA has been very effective in reducing stigma, normalizing mental health issues and discussing suicide awareness.

Point of Contact – This program is offered throughout the State by MHAs. If you are interested in finding out more about Mental Health First Aid, contact Joelle Monaco at jmonaco@mhanys.org

ASIST and SafeTALK are evidence based training around suicide prevention. The State Office of Mental Health offers trainings throughout New York State at no cost.

Point of Contact – For SafeTALK schedules, go to https://www.omh.ny.gov/omhweb/suicide_prevention/training/safeTalk.html

Listed below are some resources available through SAMHSA

Veterans and Military Families

SAMHSA leads efforts to ensure that American service men and women and their families can access behavioral health treatment and services.

Overview

There are an estimated 23.4 million veterans in the United States, and about 2.2 million military service members and 3.1 million immediate family members.

  • The demanding environments of military life and experiences of combat, during which many veterans experience psychological distress, can be further complicated by substance use and related disorders. Many service members face such critical issues as trauma, suicide, homelessness, and/or involvement with the criminal justice system. Approximately 18.5% of service members returning from Iraq or Afghanistan have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or depression, and 19.5% report experiencing a traumatic brain injury (TBI) during deployment.
  • Approximately 50% of returning service members who need treatment for mental health conditions seek it, but only slightly more than half who receive treatment receive adequate care.
  • Between 2004 and 2006, 7.1% of U.S. veterans met the criteria for a substance use disorder.
  • The Army suicide rate reached an all-time high in 2012.
  • In the 5 years from 2005 to 2009, more than 1,100 members of the Armed Forces took their own lives, an average of 1 suicide every 36 hours.
  • According to an assessment by the Departments of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Veterans Affairs (VA), nearly 76,000 veterans experienced homeless on a given night in 2009. Some 136,000 veterans spent at least one night in a shelter during that year.
  • Mental and substance use disorders caused more hospitalizations among U.S. troops in 2009 than any other cause.
  • A recent Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS) report, Twenty-one Percent of Veterans in Substance Abuse Treatment Were Homeless (PDF | 488 KB) states that about 70% of homeless veterans also experience a substance use disorder.

Research also shows the negative impacts that deployment and trauma-related stress can have on military families, particularly wives and children:

  • Cumulative lengths of deployments are associated with more emotional difficulties among military children and more mental health diagnoses among U.S. Army wives.
  • Children of deployed military personnel have more school-, family-, and peer-related emotional difficulties, compared with national samples.

Although active duty troops and their families are eligible for care from the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), a significant number choose not to access those services due to fear of discrimination or the harm receiving treatment for behavioral health issues may have on their military career or that of their spouse. National Guard and Reserve troops who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan (approximately 40% of the total) are eligible for behavioral health care services from the VA, but many are unable or unwilling to access those services. Many National Guard, Reserve, veterans, and active duty service members as well as their families seek care in communities across this country, particularly from state, territorial, tribal, local, and private behavioral health care systems, often with employer-sponsored coverage.

Military families have a culture and unique behavioral health needs that may not be understood within the greater community. SAMHSA supports the behavioral health needs of America’s service men and women—active duty, National Guard, Reserve, and veterans—along with their families, by leading efforts to ensure that community-based services are accessible, culturally competent, and trauma-informed. Reintegration is the primary goal.

Please visit the following pages for more detailed information on each:

 

 

Glenn Liebman, CEO

Mental Health Association in New York State, Inc.

Follow us online: www.MHANYS.org / Facebook MHANYSinc / Twitter @MHAacrossNYS

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