Happy Veterans Day! Today we recognize those who have served and protected our country, many of whom incurred physical and emotional pain as a result of their sacrifices. And they’re not the only ones who struggle.
Many Americans are living with depression, anxiety, post-traumatic symptoms, substance abuse, shopping or gambling addiction, or adjustment to illness or other life stressors. Please don’t feel you have to go through it alone. Money should never be a barrier to receiving mental health services. There are a number of free or affordable resources. Here are a few.
Suicide rates are on the rise in the USA. It is the 10th leading cause of death in this country. An average 123 Americans commit suicide each day (20 are Veterans or service members).
Many more people make suicide attempts or engage in self-injurious behaviors.
Mental Illness Isn’t the Only Factor
I was surprised to learn that 54% of people who died by suicide did not have a known mental health concern.
Of the 20 Veterans who commit suicide each day, only 3 had been seen by VA mental health.
According to the CDC, there are a number of factors (with or without known mental illness) that were associated with suicide, including:
- Relationship Problems (42%)
- Crisis in the upcoming or past two weeks (29%)
- Problematic Substance Use (28%)
- Physical Health Problem (22%)
- Job/Financial Problem (16%)
- Criminal legal Problem (9%)
- Loss of Housing (4%)
Help is Available
If you or someone you know is experiencing any of these problems, please seek help. There are a number of free or affordable resources.
Start with your Health Insurance
If you have health insurance, the first step would be to see what your plan covers, and locate an in-network provider on your plan. Many plans cover a certain number of counseling sessions, though you may have to pay a co-pay.
If psychotherapy is not covered, your primary care physician may be able to prescribe certain antidepressant medications. It can’t hurt to ask your doctor!
Check with your work
Many companies offer free counseling sessions through their Employee Assistance Program (EAP). You will be connected with a counselor and may receive a certain number of sessions at no cost to you. Ask your human resources department.
University Counseling Centers for Student
Most colleges and universities have counselors on-site. Counseling centers at universities often provide students with a certain number of counseling sessions at no cost.
Sliding-fees at Psychological Services Centers
If there’s a nearby university with an APA-accredited psychology graduate program, they likely have a Psychological Services Center (PSC). This is a clinic where graduate students (supervised by licensed psychologists) provide evidence-based treatments to members of the community. In my experience, the care provided is often very good quality, as trainees are expected to adhere to protocols that have been shown to be effective for treating various presenting problems.
Psychological Services Centers often use a “sliding-fee scale,” which means that they amount they charge is determined by how much you can afford based on your income. The graduate students do not get paid, but the money goes toward keeping the clinic running (a very worthy cause).
PSCs are also a good resource for low-cost psychoeducational assessments (such as testing for ADHD, gifted, learning disability, and autism spectrum disorders).
If you are a Veteran, consider seeking services through your local VA medical center. VA mental health clinics are dedicated to providing five-star service using evidence-based treatments (i.e., those that research has shown works). They have providers who understand the needs of Veterans, including specialists in PTSD, military sexual trauma, depression, suicide prevention, substance abuse, chronic pain, traumatic brain injury, and a combination of these presenting problems.
Vet Centers are another resource for combat Veterans and their families. Vet Centers across the country offer group as well as individual counseling. Services are free of cost to those who qualify.
Veterans Crisis Line is another free service that has staff available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week through talk or text.
- Call 1-800-273-8255 press 1
- Text 838255
- Or visit VeteransCrisisLine.net
There are a number of different support groups out there, for everything from gambling addiction, substance abuse, and general mental health. Many people can be resistant to the idea of a support group, but please don’t discount it before you’ve tried it. If you find one group that isn’t a good fit for you, try another group in your area.
- Alcoholics Anonymous
- Narcotics Anonymous
- Gamblers Anonymous
- Debtors Anonymous
- National Alliance on Mental Illness
Coping with Physical Illness
Many hospitals have support groups for people living with certain illnesses (such as cancer) as well as groups for caregivers. I recommend finding a group through a hospital because they often have a provider present who can facilitate the group.
If you’re in Crisis
If you or someone you love has thoughts of suicide, there are people here to help.
- Go to your closest emergency department
- Call 911
- Dial 211 to be connected with Essential Community Services in your area
- Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255
- Text: HOME to 741741