Letter to the Editor: Supporting our veterans and families on Memorial Day

May 29, 2023 | 12:04 am

Updated May 28, 2023 | 10:50 pm

Graphic by Owensboro Times

Memorial Day is so much more than a chance to kick off the summer. The heart of the day is to honor all the men and women who died in U.S. military service. 

We must also not forget the men and women who made it home but are now fighting a battle with addiction, mental health, or suicide ideation. These are dangerous problems that impact a large percentage of the veteran population.  

In Kentucky, there are over 280,000 veterans. Nationally, over 3.9 million veterans have a substance use disorder or mental illness. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), substance use disorder significantly increases suicidality among veterans ages 18 and older.

“Families must know and be reassured these problems are treatable and early intervention saves lives,” said Michael Leach of Addicted.org.

Many veterans struggle with substance use disorder. There is no simple answer to the question of why, but there are numerous causative factors. 

Countless veterans have difficulty adjusting to civilian life. They often struggle with financial hardships, difficulty finding employment, and accessing benefits or support. Mental and emotional health concerns are significant. Substance use becomes a way of coping with difficult or unwanted thoughts and feelings. 

Additionally, untreated trauma directly impacts all areas of life, whether psychological or physical. Treatment is critical to address chronic pain, difficulty sleeping, anxiety, or depression. 

There are ways that families and communities can help. On top of the VA-Facility locator provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, other supports include the following:

  • The Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs offers different support options. 
  • Helpful hotlines include the Veteran Crisis Line, 1-800-273-8255, and the Lifeline for Vets, 1-888-777-4443.
  • SAMHSA has a treatment locator and specific treatment services for veterans and their families. 

Family members make a substantial difference by providing support to their loved ones struggling with an addiction. Speak with them openly and honestly about their substance use. Express concern but refrain from passing judgment. Help them find treatment. Be patient and show compassion; addiction is treatable. 

Drug rehab centers have become increasingly better equipped to treat veterans. Many programs specialize in substance use treatment for veterans treating co-occurring disorders. 

Memorial Day commemorates all the men and women who have died in U.S. military service. Outside of this day, we must not forget those who are struggling after making it home. There are supports available. It takes families and communities to come together to help our veterans.

Written by
Veronica Raussin, a Community Outreach Coordinator for Addicted.org.

May 29, 2023 | 12:04 am

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