Supporting the Behavioral Health Needs of Our Nation’s Veterans | SAMHSA

On Veterans Day, we set aside time to honor the contributions of those who have served. Throughout our nation’s history, millions of Americans have answered the call to uniformed service, and they often continue to lead in their communities once they are out of uniform. Every year, approximately 200,000 men and women transition out of active-duty service and return to civilian life.

This adjustment requires Veterans and their families to reorient their lives across multiple domains including employment, finances, housing, social supports, and health. Life’s transitions are inherently stressful for all of us. They produce changes in relationships and support networks, and they challenge our identities and self-perceptions. Transitions for Veterans can be especially burdensome due to shifting from the unique collective culture of military service to shaping a more individualized role in how they live, work, and interact with others. Studies indicate that 44 percent to 72 percent experience high levels of stress during transition from military to civilian life.

Data also suggests that approximately half of those who recently separated from military service may not immediately connect with available resources, benefits, and services. Without support, more complex behavioral health concerns might emerge. In 2020, approximately 5.2 million Veterans experienced a behavioral health condition. More telling are the numbers of Veterans who were not engaged in treatment; more than half of Veterans with a mental illness did not receive treatment within the past year. Additionally, more than 90 percent of those experiencing a substance use disorder did not receive treatment. This data highlights that our friends, family, and community members may be suffering in silence and that barriers to care exist, including stigma.

Behavioral health is essential to overall health, and we all have a role in ensuring that service members, Veterans and their families are prepared for their next steps in life as they transition.

Review the resources on Military and Veteran Families developed by the National Child Traumatic Stress Network.

Everyone adapts to stressful situations differently. If you or a loved one are experiencing the signs below, there may be a need for increased behavioral health support services.

Connect to inTransition. This program offers free, confidential coaching and support for service members and Veterans transitioning between mental health-care systems.

In summary, Veterans, service members, and their families have answered the call to serve and have earned our appreciation. Throughout their service, they often navigate deployments, trauma-related stressors, multiple geographic moves, and other factors that can make it difficult to prioritize mental wellbeing. It’s important they know that they are not alone as they face the unique journey of transitioning from the pride of uniformed service to continued meaningful contributions in civilian life.

Meaghan C. Mobbs, George A. Bonanno. Beyond war and PTSD: The crucial role of transition stress in the lives of military veterans, Clinical Psychology Review, Volume 59, 2018, Pages 137-144