There is no denying that Vets have made great sacrifices to protect our nation and they deserve the best when they come back. Most of these individuals have suffered extreme physical and emotional trauma and are in fact considered to be the most at risk group of people for depression, PTSD, suicide and other issues related to mental health.
According to the 2014 Army Study to Assess Risk and Resilience in Service members, the rate of major depression is about 5 times higher among soldiers compared to the general population. Intermittent explosive disorder is nearly six times as high and PTSD or post-traumatic stress is almost 15 times higher.
Currently, there are over 1200 social workers in the United States Department of Veteran Affairs. According to the National Center for Veterans Analysis & Statistics, the number of vets getting disability benefits surged from 3.9 to 4.5 million between 2014 and 2015 alone. There continues to be a growing need for social workers to offer services to the vets, their families and the community as a whole.
That being said, Service Care Solutions gave us some of the things social workers are tasked with when it comes to helping veterans:
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder(PTSD)
PTSD, according to the National Institute of Mental Health is a condition that develops in some individuals who have experienced a scary, dangerous or shocking event. This is not an uncommon disorder among veterans. Symptoms like angry outbursts and frightening thoughts often start within three months of the event or just after the individual returns home, and they may last months to a lifetime. Availing helps from a social worker through individual & family therapy or from social group support can help a veteran cope with the situation, thus allowing for better adjustment.
Coping with Injury
Most of the veterans have also endured severe and life-changing injuries such as the loss of limbs. The hurdle of adjusting to these losses combined with the emotional stress that is experienced by veterans can lead to difficulties in adjusting back to the family, career, and community. Social workers play a key role in the treatment process by providing individual, group, and couple counseling, case management as well as ongoing services as the individual adjusts to their new situations.
Ascertaining a successful transition back to home calls for support and involvement by family members, who might as well be experiencing stress with the return of the veteran. When the service person was deployed, the family may have adjusted to a new way of living, and it may make the return of the member a hurdle for everyone. In addition, the family members should address and adjust to the emotional and physical changes of the veteran in order to prevent adverse outcomes like domestic violence. According to the New Social Worker Magazine, around 20% of domestic violence cases in America involve combat veterans. Social workers can help bring this number down by providing clinical and therapeutic services that focus on readjustment to the family.
Getting Acclimated back to Normal Life
For a veteran, the realities of going back home like obtaining housing and finding a job can make life challenging. Social workers can help the veterans by connecting them to the right sources while giving emotional support throughout the process of readjustment.
Reducing the Risk of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Issues
The changes and stress experienced on the field can lead to an increased risk of substance abuse as well as mental disorder. According to the United States Department of Veterans, the risk is even higher for servicemen and women going through PTSD, with more than 2 out of 10 veterans with the condition having substance disorder. The use of alcohol, cigarettes and other drugs by veterans has increased in the past 10 years and is even higher than use by commoners.
A social worker with adequate training on substance use can give the required services to help veterans avoid the need for the use of substances to cope with stress and the changes in life. They can also refer those who are experiencing the harmful effects of substance use to the right practitioners.
A person interested in providing case management and clinical services to veterans and their families needs to have a Master of Social Work degree. The career can be quite rewarding.