Mental Health Support for Veterans: It’s our Duty to Serve

Emily Bridge and Shadale Jacobs — November 12, 2018 — 4 min read
A message for our nation’s veterans on Veterans Day: We’re here to help.
Each day, 25 veterans commit suicide, according to the National Veteran’s Federation, and even more attempt suicide. Others continue to struggle from the effects of living with depression, post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury and substance addiction—often related to their military service and combat experiences. Many times, these individuals find themselves unable to, or are uncomfortable with, reaching out to access mental health services when they need help.
Our nation’s veterans have served us and sacrificed for our country, and now it’s our duty to serve them in their time of need.
It’s essential that we reach out and surround these individuals with the services and community support that can help make a positive difference in their lives.
Here in North Carolina, a strong set of community organizations, which includes Cardinal Innovations Healthcare, are working together to identify veterans who could benefit from mental and behavioral health services, help them understand what services are available, get them registered for those services, and remain connected with them over time to ensure they have access to the services they need to be successful.
Cardinal Innovations specialists collaborate with veteran-focused organizations in our communities throughout over 60 counties in North Carolina. For example, we work closely with Veterans Bridge Home as well as local NC Serves networks under America Serves, creating a network of support services throughout the state.
Through a coordination center and referral platform, any community organization that interacts with veterans can create a referral in the system. A Cardinal Innovations team member will reach out to the veteran to find the right support in their community, which can include housing support services, employment and other primary living needs.
Our unique role at Cardinal Innovations is to serve as a point of contact for any veteran, or their families, seeking behavioral health services. Through our mental health training programs and participation in community events, we also proactively work to educate community organizations, providers, veterans and their family members, making everyone more aware of the resources available to support veterans and ensuring that the right people know how to access those resources.
In August, we began working with community providers in Charlotte, N.C., and surrounding areas to create a suicide prevention workgroup. This project, funded by a SAMHSA grant, is tasked with identifying how to reduce suicides among service members and veterans, with the goal of building a program that can be replicated to benefit individuals and communities outside of the Charlotte service area, providing intervention and services on a broader scale.  
The collaborative efforts of these organizations and communities are aimed toward a common goal: ensuring our veterans have the best possible support to lead healthy lives.
One of the challenges we face is getting people to recognize when they need behavioral health support services. As a nation, it’s not uncommon for individuals to be hesitant to talk about their own mental health, let alone seek services or support to address their mental health needs.
Within military populations, there’s additional complexity around seeking any type of medical help–whether for physical or behavioral health needs. Our society perceives soldiers as heroes, both full of strength and highly capable. Wrapped in that is a notion that asking for help is a sign of weakness, creating a situation for many veterans that makes it difficult to reach out.

It’s only when physical pain becomes unbearable that many are inclined to seek treatment as there is no comparable measurement for the invisible challenges of mental health. Instead, the decision is often made to “power through.” 

Adding to that, the stigma that exists in the U.S. around mental health can be heightened among veterans who may want to reenlist and don’t want to face restrictions because of their treatment history. But no stigma is worth risking one’s mental health– or their lives.  
On this Veteran’s Day, our message to veterans, their loved ones, or anyone else in need of behavioral health care services, especially those in crisis is this: We know it can be scary to take the first step and reach out to get help, but we’re here for you – any time of day or night.
It starts with one simple step. Call us at 1-800-939-5911.
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