Mental Health and Suicide Among Veterans
Among many veterans, mental health conditions or substance abuse disorders are becoming more prevalent in recent years. In military culture, mental illness is often seen as a weakness and is highly stigmatized. This is the reason why many active duty members and veterans do not seek treatment for their mental health condition.
Combat veterans are often exposed to multiple traumatic episodes throughout their military careers. While some studies have found that combat trauma is related to suicide, others have not, meaning that the heightened risk of suicide may depend on how intense and how often a veteran experienced combat trauma. Some service members can experience traumatic events; combat related or not, and walk away okay, while others are haunted forever. Every veteran has a different experience during their time in service and no two veteran’s experiences are the same. In this post, we will specifically discuss symptoms of PTSD and depression and suicidal ideation.
PTSD and Depression
Posttraumatic stress disorder is a mental health problem that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event, like combat, a natural disaster, a car accident, or sexual assault. Depression is having feelings of severe despondency and dejection. PTSD and depression have been found to be a risk factor for suicidal ideation. Some symptoms of PTSD include:
- Feeling upset by thins that remind you of the traumatic event
- Feeling emotionally cut off from others
- Easy startle
- Having vivid nightmares, memories or flashbacks of the event
- Concentration issues
- Sleep disturbance
- Irritation or angry outburst
- Feeling numb or losing interest in things that were once enjoyable
- Suicidal ideation
Some symptoms of depression include:
- Feeling sad or hopeless
- Losing interest or not getting please from most daily activities
- Gaining or losing weight
- Sleeping too much or not enough almost every day
- Feeling tired or as if you have no energy almost every day
What is suicidal ideation?
If you have been diagnosed with PTSD or any mental health condition, you may have come across the words “suicidal ideation” in your medical records. Suicidal ideation is thinking about, considering or planning suicide. Suicidal ideation is a symptom that is included in the VA Rating Schedule for Mental Health Conditions. The VA considers the presence of this symptom when making a determination for your VA disability rating for PTSD, anxiety, major depressive disorder, schizophrenia, and other mental health conditions.
Studies have shown that suicide risk is higher in veterans with PTSD. Many veterans have disturbing thoughts that bring them back to the original traumatic experience. It is important to know that these experiences do not have to be combat related. Some veterans will experience PTSD or depression that was caused by personal assault or military sexual trauma (MST).
If you have suicidal thoughts, it is important to seek assistance. While traumatic events of the past cannot be undone, there are multiple ways veterans can receive help for their service-related suicidal thoughts. Getting help is the first step on the road to recovery and treatment. Please contact the Veterans Crisis Line online or call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK or 1-800-273-8255.