The Importance of Veterans’ Mental Health

Courtney Cordoza
Staff Writer

opinions_courtney_mental health_flickr_Defense Visual Information Distribution Service

PC: Defense Visual Information Distribution Service

Justin Miller was a Marine Corps veteran. After coming back from a deployment in Iraq, something about him was different. Family members noticed he was not the same Justin that they knew and loved. While he was deployed overseas, he had began to encounter night terrors. Upon returning home, he suffered from angry and impulsive behavior.

Miller had been struggling with suicidal thoughts. He had began receiving counseling to get the help he desperately craved. In a last attempt, he called the Veterans Crisis Line; they told him to reach out to his local United States Department of Veterans Affairs. In February, he checked himself into the emergency department of the Minneapolis VA and spent four days at the inpatient mental health unit. He told them he was trying to fix himself.

During his first two days at the facility, he repeatedly asked for a treatment plan. He never received one that he thought was satisfactory. After being discharged, he was given antidepressant medication with no further instructions. Miller got into his car and commited suicide with a firearm.

Once his family found out the news of his death, they were angry and wanted answers from the Minneapolis VA. They felt that the hospital did not properly treat their beloved son and brother.

Miller was only 33 years old. He grew up wanting to follow in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, who were both war veterans. Civilians will never be able to fully comprehend what active duty soldiers and retired veterans go through. It is important that we have the necessary medical tools needed to provide a healthy and fulfilling life after one comes back from war.

This is not the first time Veterans Affairs let soldiers down. In the last few years, VA hospitals across the United States have been investigated for the poor conditions and treatments they provide. The emergency room waiting times have been one of the biggest concerns. Veterans who needed doctor appointments would have to wait for months until they were seen. For many, the long time frame was detrimental and even dangerous to their health.

In the investigation of Miller’s report, the VA Office of Inspector General said that there were many faults made in Miller’s treatment. He was marked as a “moderate risk” for suicide, even though he pleaded for help because of suicidal thoughts. He was never given a treatment plan when he was discharged from the hospital. They never scheduled a follow-up appointment. This is common practice when given a new medication, and is especially crucial since it involves mental health.

The system failed him. It’s less taboo to discuss mental health now and it’s great that people are acknowledging the fact that mental health is as important as physical health. Everyone can suffer from mental health illnesses, but veterans and soldiers are highly prone to it. The RAND Center for Military Health Policy Research notes that 20 percent of veterans who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or major depression.

For the 2019 fiscal year, President Trump has proposed a budget of $76.5 billion for the Department of Veterans Affairs. $8.6 billion will go towards both inpatient and outpatient mental health. 11.2 percent of next year’s budget will go towards mental health. In comparison to the budget as a whole, this is still an unacceptable number. Only a tenth of the funding is going towards mental health.

Having a healthy mind is vital for the body and spirit of the person. If a person does not have good mental health, it affects their life socially, emotionally and physically. Both soldiers and veterans have been in combat that many civilians would not have the strength to do. These people fight for the protection of our rights. They keep United States’s soil safe from external enemies. These brave men and women are some of the most courageous people here.

They are selfless for sacrificing their lives at home to protect us overseas. It is only right that we do whatever it takes to provide them with a safe and comfortable environment to return to. Funding and treatment facilities need to be better to provide them with this. These soldiers were deployed to ensure our well-being. It is only right that the action is reciprocated.

Categories: Opinions

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