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Support Our Veterans

May 13, 2014

Support Our Veterans

In the wake of the second Fort Hood shooting, fortifying the mental health and coping capacity of veterans and their families should be an important goal of emergency managers. Military personnel are the casualties of wars you don’t often hear about. A RAND study revealed that up to 20 percent of the 1.7 million veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or major depression. And 7.1 percent —1.8 million — of all veterans meet the criteria for a substance use disorder.

The Emergency and Disaster Management Program at the Metropolitan College of New York is now teaming up with the Student Veterans Organization at the College to bring Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) workshops to veterans and their families. MHFA workshop is an interactive session which runs 8 hours. It introduces participants to risk factors and warning signs of mental health problems, builds understanding of their impact and overviews common treatments. The MHFA workshop prepares participants to assist friends, family members, co- workers, and peers during times of crisis. It also increases understanding of the signs and symptoms of mental illnesses, encourages help-seeking behaviors, informs people where they can go for help, and opens the doors to those in need of services.

Participants learn how to stabilize those in crisis until they are able to access professional services. This may entail helping someone accept a referral to professional Mental Health services, or supporting someone until emergency care can arrive. Participants’ learn the potential risk factors and warning signs for a range of mental health problems, including: depression, anxiety/trauma, psychosis and psychotic disorders, substance use disorders, and self-injury.

The provision of training in MHFA to veterans not familiar with mental health issues will increase their resilience by strengthening their ability to prepare for and withstand impact of a traumatic event. By promoting awareness and educating the veterans on how and when to access mental health services, we promote their ability to take care of their functional needs before during and after a traumatic event. Promoting the understanding of mental health issues and providing veterans with the skills to help those in their communities understand their need and how to access services may also lead to a decreased stigmatization of mental health services. This would help family and community members identify triggers and risk factors related to possible mental health issues. In addition, it would allow family and community members to learn mental health first aid and techniques for coping with the stress of caring for or living with a veteran suffering from a mental illness.

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