Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Eric Shinseki credits a group effort between the VA and Department of Defense (DoD) officials with being able to successfully recognize and treat returning combat veterans suffering from mental-health issues before the symptoms worsen and become more severe, long-term problems.
Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) diagnosed and treated early usually results in better treatment than waiting years to attempt to treat symptoms. It is believed most people returning from a combat deployment suffer from at least a couple symptoms of PTSD. It is important to catch these symptoms and treat them before they become full-blown PTSD. PTSD usually does not set it in right away; it typically develops after symptoms continue to be ignored.
The military performs a medical readiness assessment on every soldier prior to deployment. Those soldiers revealing mental health concerns are evaluated specifically by mental-health providers to determine their ability to deploy. Soldiers are then given a global health assessment within 7 days after returning from deployment. Because not all mental and physical symptoms immediately present themselves, the DoD now performs reassessments 3-6 months following their return from deployment.
For those more severe situations, the military embeds mental health support teams to provide immediate mental health aid. The hardest part is actually getting the soldiers to admit they need help and convincing them to connect with mental health providers. The more veterans getting help show other veterans there is no shame in suffering from these mental health issues.
The burden is on the system to take care of those deployed to defend this country; to ensure every veteran is exposed to every mental health counseling opportunity. This is becoming more of a reality as the budgets for both the VA and the DoD allow for more money to be used towards mental-health services.
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