Where can veterans find mental health resources?

by: Brenda Lyle

Mental health wellness is a critical issue for many in Central Florida –including veterans. The unique experiences and challenges faced by veterans can have a significant impact on their mental well-being. Our diverse male and female veteran population ranges from WWII age veterans to those recently discharged.

Often, a veteran’s mental health is affected by the trauma they may have experienced during active duty. Exposure to combat, witnessing traumatic events, and the loss of fellow service members can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental health conditions. Symptoms may manifest in various ways, including nightmares, flashbacks, anxiety, depression, and difficulty adjusting to civilian life.

There is still an unfortunate stigma surrounding mental health treatment. Fear of judgment or negative consequences may prevent veterans from disclosing their struggles or seeking help. This means many veterans suffer in silence, possibly worsening their situation. Older veterans in particular are less likely to identify and verbalize their feelings. 

For younger veterans, the transition from military to civilian life can be difficult. They may struggle to find meaningful employment, experience financial difficulties, or face social isolation. These stressors can contribute to feelings of hopelessness, frustration, and low self-esteem, leading to an increased risk of mental health disorders.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has numerous programs and initiatives to support veterans’ mental well-being. Wide ranging services include counseling, therapy, and medication management, aiming toward comprehensive care. In Brevard County, the Melbourne Vet Center provides mental health assistance for veterans and their families. The University of Central Florida’s “UCF Restores” program addresses PTSD in veterans, first responders and other survivors of trauma. 

Community organizations, nonprofit groups and mental health professionals all have a vital role to play in supporting veterans’ mental health. The Steven Cohen Military Family Clinic provides mental health counseling to veterans and their families, with outreach throughout the state. The Camaraderie Foundation in Orlando provides veteran transition assistance, counseling and support services. Vitas Healthcare works with “We Honor Veterans” to provide veteran specific hospice and palliative care programs. The VITAS veteran liaison can assist with accessing VA health related benefits. OneSeniorPlace.com maintains a downloadable Veterans Resource Guide. MakeTheConnection.net is a treasure trove of local and virtual veteran assistance centers. 

Through education, understanding, and empathy, we can all support veterans in their journey towards better mental well-being. On June 14, PTSD will be the topic during Senior Health Friday With Nurse Lisa in Viera. U.S. Air Force medic and purple heart recipient, Ken Gestring will be the featured speaker. RSVP online at OneSeniorPlace.com or call 321-751-6771.  

One Senior Place is a marketplace for resources and provider of information, advice, care and on-site services for seniors and their families. Questions for this column are answered by professionals in nursing, social work, care management and in-home care. Send questions to AskOSP@OneSeniorPlace.com, call 321-751-6771 or visit One Senior Place, The Experts in Aging. Brenda Lyle is a Certified Care Manager and Certified Dementia Practitioner with One Senior Place, Greater Orlando.