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National Council Magazine examines Iraq and Afghanistan veterans' struggles with mental health and addiction disorders.

National Council Magazine

Veterans on the Road Home

Compelling, firsthand stories by veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars about their continuing struggles with mental health and addiction disorders are featured in the current issue of National Council Magazine, the quarterly publication of the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare. The magazine, titled "Veterans on the Road Home," highlights the difficulties that many returning soldiers are facing and how community-based mental health and addictions organizations are helping them adjust to civilian life.

"For the thousands of veterans who return home with physical and mental scars, their wounds can present particular challenges for years to come," writes Linda Rosenberg, president and CEO of the National Council, in the magazine's editorial. "… the war looms large for National Council members - community mental health and addiction services organizations - working with the families left behind during tours of duty and dealing with the wars' aftermath in the form of veterans returning with posttraumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, and substance abuse."

Nearly one in five (300,000) veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from either posttraumatic stress or depression, but just more than half sought help and only one in four received acceptable mental health care, according to a recent study by the RAND Corporation. The Department of Veterans Affairs says mental health is the second largest area of illness (after orthopedic problems) for which Iraq and Afghanistan veterans seek treatment at VA hospitals and clinics.

The magazine includes a harrowing, firsthand account by Travis Williams. The former Marine was the lone survivor of a road bomb explosion in Iraq that killed all 11 members of his rifle squad in 2005.

"When we arrived home, it seemed surreal," writes Williams, now a civilian in Montana. "I felt more out of place here than I had in Iraq. I isolated myself from friends and family and dwelled in my emptiness."

Articles from treatment centers in several states illustrate how the need for treatment far exceeds the capacity of the VA, and how community-based mental health and addictions organizations are ideally equipped to help returning soldiers reintegrate into civilian life. Congress is considering legislation to extend and supplement the treatment systems for the VA by funding the nation's network of existing public community mental health and addictions agencies. The legislation would enable more returning veterans and their families to take advantage of the mental health and addiction treatment services in their own communities.

The "Veterans on the Road Home" issue is available at http://www.thenationalcouncil.org/cs/about_us/national_council_magazine

About The National Council

The National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare is a not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) association of 1,400 behavioral healthcare organizations that provide treatment and rehabilitation for mental illnesses and addictions disorders to nearly six million adults, children and families in communities across the country. The National Council and its members bear testimony to the fact that medical, social, psychological and rehabilitation services offered in community settings help people with mental illnesses and addiction disorders recover and lead productive lives.

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