Caring for Returning Veterans: Meeting Mental Health Needs




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Service members from Iraq and Afghanistan are returning home and reintegrating into civilian life, but many were exposed to terrifying events that can cause posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental health problems. Military culture, which upholds strength and resilience, can create a barrier to veterans in seeking help for PTSD. Many veterans do not receive health care available through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and, instead, get health care in the private sector. Non-VA care providers need to be aware that they should ask patients about any military service, be prepared to assess veteran patients for PTSD and other mental health conditions, and provide support and education to them and their families. This Commentary features a discussion among experts in medicine and government who want to address the challenges that returning veterans face in receiving comprehensive mental and medical health care, improve the transition from active duty to veteran life, and involve family members, peers, employers, and communities in supporting veterans.

From the Behavioral Science Division, National Center for PTSD, US Department of Veterans Affairs, Washington, DC, and the Department of Psychiatry, Boston University School of Medicine, Bos-ton, Massachusetts (Dr Keane); IBM Research, San Jose, California (Dr Chaudhry); Department of Psychiatry, Weill Cornell Medical College, and New York-Presbyterian Hospital, New York (Dr Do-cherty); US Department of Veterans Affairs, Washington, DC (Drs Jesse and Lee); Serving Together, Mental Health Association of Montgomery County, Rockville, Maryland (Ms McNurlen); and Suicide Prevention Branch, Center for Mental Health Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Rockville, Maryland (Ms Zeller).

J Clin Psychiatry 2013;74(1):22-28