Petzold: Don’t ignore mental heath problems in our veterans



Veterans returning with PTSD and self medication with prescription pills and alcohol concept with a dark themed image of military dog tags surrounded by a prescription bottle and a flask of liquor

Megan Petzold

When soldiers come home from war, they are honored, respected and admired by all. However, one thing gets cast aside is their health post-service.

The Veterans Affairs (VA) does what they can to help those who were injured, both physically and mentally. As much good as the VA does for those who served, it also ignores many issues veterans might have regarding their mental health.

To save time, space and money, veterans get pills prescribed for everything from bodily pain to surgeries to tackling Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). While the rate of prescribing drugs to veterans has decreased, the VA still treats veterans with less respect than they deserve.

If the VA was to pay a little more attention to those who are suffering, the suicide rate in veterans could dramatically decrease. Recently, 33 year-old veteran Justin Miller called a VA Hotline, stating that he was having suicidal thoughts and had access to firearms. The hotline responder suggested he go to the VA Urgent Care as soon as he could. He did, was examined for four days, and discharged.

Less than 24 hours after he was discharged, Miller was found in his car, still parked near the facility, with a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Even though VA clinicians held Miller under watch for four days, they didn’t do enough to prevent him from committing suicide.

What I don’t understand is how the VA thought four days was enough time to prevent a war veteran with severe suicidal thoughts and other mental health concerns from ignoring his thoughts and desire to live on?

There are more than 55 million records of veteran suicides, from 1979 to 2014. While this is a large number of years, 55 million veteran suicides is way too many, according to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.

Additionally, there are 2.1 million veterans who go to the VA for mental health help. However, a study states that 50 percent of those who returned from Iraq and Afghanistan needed help, according to the National Veterans Foundation.

.In the year 2005, 22 percent of veterans sought veteran mental health treatment in the private sector rather than getting help from the VA, according toAmerican Psychological Association. That number has increased along with wait times at many of the VA mental health facilities around the country.

I don’t understand how the United States and all those involved have been so comfortable with the fact veterans more than likely will commit suicide and many are suffering from multiple mental illnesses which cause them to want to end their lives. They lived through hell, the least we could do for them upon return is provide them with the resources to get healthier.