Protecting mental health for military veterans

Published: Nov. 9, 2023 at 4:17 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Mental health can be a battlefield, and admitting you need help can be just as daunting. For veterans, it is important to recognize that these struggles are both real and far from invincible.

“PTSD is definitely very common when it comes to our soldiers,” said Missiey Waller, the Healthcare Navigator for the Fairbanks Rescue Mission’s Supportive Services for Veteran Families. “Anxiety is very common, depression is very common.”

The VA estimates around 41 percent of veterans have some type of mental health need, based on self-reporting and psychiatric evaluations. They said 55 percent of this number does not report seeking care from either VA or outside resources.

Isolation can be an issue for those leaving the military.

“I’ve noticed if they live on their own, sometimes just being in an area by themselves, that’s not good for them,” Waller explained. “They get caught up in their heads. That could lead them to drinking or falling into addictions or things like that.”

Having a community and a social network is one of the best ways for anyone to protect their mental health. There are many community resources available for veterans in our community, including the Supportive Services for Veteran Families.

“I do think it’s important for mental help to be trained specifically to help veterans,” Waller added. “They have been through a lot, and sometimes it’s very different than what somebody in the civilian world will go through. A lot of them have been deployed.”

There is no time limit on healing. Some veterans are still working through trauma spanning back decades.

“We are still helping people from the Vietnam stage and they’re still going through stuff even at 75 and 80 years old,” Waller said. “So to have people that specifically deal with veterans is such a great service. It makes them more comfortable, it makes them open up more, it’s such a great benefit for them.”

“Seek help,” Waller urged. “Don’t be nervous. We are here to help. Nobody is here to judge you. We’re just here to help you be at peace, so that you can move forward in your life, so that you can go to work, so that you won’t have all these thoughts in your head. We want you to be confident.”

If you or a veteran you know has a mental health concern, please call Supportive Services for Veteran Families at (907) 331-6292 or the Crisis Hotline at 988.