Caught your attention with the title of this post.  Granted, not all Veterans end up in a crisis, and not all need assistance.  We also know that an estimated 300,000 Veterans nationwide are homeless.  One out of five of homeless are underrepresented at the VA hospital and have injuries stemming from service that are not reported.  Also, 22 to 24 Veterans die by their own hand each day.  So how does this happen, and how could it be different? How does one go from serving in the United States military and the cut from the cloth to barely making it?

What I have learned from working with Veterans in crisis are distinct differences in cultures between the military and civilian life.  The military person started out as a young adult, ready to do what the government expected of them.  This included changing their mindset and challenging their abilities.  The shift became so strong and the habits so ingrained that it takes years, and even decades to “transition” out of the military and into society after the last day of service.

An estimated 1/3rd of our population has served.  That means Veterans are the minority.  Many friends of mine and clients that I serve have made these statements about their employers and coworkers: “I don’t get along with anyone, especially civilians”, “I don’t understand why my supervisor doesn’t find a more efficient way to handle things”, “Why can’t we get the job done more efficiently and faster?”, “People tell me I can’t hear and that I yell a lot”, “I can’t work all day because my injuries bother me and slow me down”, etc.  Some companies are not acclimated to military Veterans and the culture is less likely to reflect that type of diversity.

My Veteran friends have also expressed the desire to camp out or to hide in their homes all day during their free time.  I have been the social butterfly in my home, and many times have had to drag my husband out of the house.  This is not fun for either one of us.  When asked why home is better, I was told that “danger doesn’t happen there”.  After sessions for PTS, I learned that the need to be safe can hinder going out and exploring the world.  Thank goodness we have learned strategies to create a “normal” social life together.

Veterans are people, and people need others to get along in life.  A stressed or severed relationship with a spouse, significant other, or family can turn into self-hate, disliking others, loss of friends, desire to isolate, and other things.  Many times, Post Traumatic Stress is involved (often times it can be lacking a diagnosis, or not being addressed).  What sometimes interferes with getting help are 1) lack of information of resources, 2) lack of interest/possible fear, 3) self medicating with tobacco, alcohol, drugs, shopping, 4) lack of support (family, friends, social network), and 5) loss of hope.  Once that happens, career and job arena can be impacted and that leads to not being able to pay the bills.

There is a myrid of help available for Veterans, however many are too proud or self-sufficient to accept it.  If you are a Veteran or related to one perhaps you have heard of the programs that are free.  You may not know that the VA is a valuable place to get help, and other outside (non VA) resources are available.  Here is a great list of places you can start researching to get started on the path of balance:

  1. the internet, search for assistance in your area
  2. reach out to your local VFW, American Legion, or DAV post
  3. the crisis hotline (you don’t need to be in an immediate crisis, and they have listings of free support programs in your area (1-800-273-8255, press 1)

Veterans are wonderful people for the simple fact that they gave their all for our country.  Not one needs to be in a situation that is hopeless.  Please reach out to Veterans you know and just help them feel included.  They would appreciate that, and friendships will bound from your generosity.  May the healing path begin with you.