On Memorial Day, honor the service members who gave their lives helping those who came home

On Memorial Day, honor the service members who gave their lives helping those who came home
It can be difficult to return to civil life, and we can all do more to help.

On Memorial Day, the best way to honor those who gave their lives to serve our country is by providing the best possible care, compassion, and support to those who lived to return home.

A veteran in my community, whom I observed going from a fight against post-traumatic stress disorder and head trauma to being a college graduate and a future history teacher, taught me that. Men and women like him teach me, the mother of a Navy veteran and a civilian social worker who cares for returning veterans, which means being dedicated to a mission, caring for their veteran brothers, and overcoming and adapting to the Challenges of returning to civil life after military service.

Returning veterans are leaving a culture in which they are trained for war and in which all aspects of their daily life are regulated, to return to a civil society in which most people have not served and do not have an idea of ​​what the troops have experienced.

Many veterans can navigate the transition with minimal support; They find new missions and purposes and make valuable contributions to their communities. However, a significant percentage of veterans struggle with the physical and psychological challenges that require services and support from both the Department of Veterans Affairs and the many dedicated civilian providers working in communities across the country.

In my own experience as a community-based mental health provider, I have seen that a veteran's transition process can take months or even years. There is much that can be done to support them in this process.

First, we must recognize that veterans know how to "adapt and overcome." Given the opportunity, they can take the self-discipline, camaraderie, and service they used while on active duty and put them to good use in any area of ​​their lives. They may be struggling with a variety of physical or mental health problems, but they are far from broken.

Veterans have been trained to stay focused on the mission and not recognize the pain or perceived weakness of asking for help. While it is a necessity in war, this mentality can be a persistent obstacle in the transition to civil life. Civilians close to them can remind them that it is not a weakness to ask for help.

Over time, with a combination of peer support and professional counseling in mental health, veterans may be open to the possibility of accessing support services, both community and VA, to help them with housing, education, treatment for abuse of substances, vocational training, support for couples and relationships, as well as a wide variety of peer support activities.

Then, we should all demand that our government provide veterans with better and easier access to care. The implementation in June of the Mission Act of 2018, which expands the ability of veterans to access health care in their communities instead of waiting for vacancies at a VA health service center, is a good start. The VA, in combination with qualified community-based providers, is taking a big step toward making health care and counseling services more accessible.

We must also work to expand non-clinical peer support programs, such as the Joseph Dwyer veterans' support project in Suffolk County, New York, with whom I work. Relationships between mentors can be a gentle way to help any reluctant veteran access the multitude of services and programs available to them.

By expanding access to trained community providers to work with military personnel, adding more VA satellite locations in rural areas, and developing community-based peer support programs, we can create an accessible, community-based approach that provides care. necessary to both veterans and their families.

Finally, it is vital to train civilian medical and mental health professionals to be effective and culturally competent service providers, aware of the different challenges veterans face. As the VA prepares to implement the Law of the Mission programs, social workers and other community-based providers must become culturally competent partners to provide effective and accessible care to those who have provided so much.

Social workers, like me, can lead the way in training the workforce and providing high-quality care. To support veterans' adjustment processes, as well as honoring service members who never had that opportunity.