By Thrive Wellness Reno Therapist Samuel Hunt, LMFT and Thrive Wellness Reno Occupational Therapist Dr. Meadow Deason, OTD, OTR/L
Due to the extraordinary stressors they face, many veterans and service members suffer mental health concerns that can deteriorate the quality of their lives. Through clinical support, such as mental health therapy and occupational therapy, veterans and service members can find healing despite their unique challenges.
THE MOST PREVALENT MENTAL HEALTH CONDITIONS AMONG VETERANS
Veterans and service members experience psychiatric disorders at significantly higher rates than the general population. One study of army soldiers found that nearly 25% of them grapple with at least one mental health concern.
Some of the most common mental health conditions among veterans and service members include:
- Depression: Associated with feelings of deep lasting sadness, depression is one of the most widespread mental health disorders in the United States. One and three veterans report having symptoms of depression.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): A distressing condition brought on by witnessing traumatic events, PTSD occurs in 11% to 20% of veterans.
- Suicide: Veterans are at 57% higher risk of suicide than non-veterans. Over 125 thousand veterans have died by suicide since 2001.
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI): Describing damage to the brain, TBIs occur in 9% to 28% of veterans. Brain injury can lead to acute physical, mental, and behavioral health concerns.
WHY VETERANS AND SERVICE MEMBERS FACE INCREASED RISK FOR MENTAL HEALTH CONDITIONS
Reasons mental health concerns can be more prevalent in the military population include:
- Traumatic events: During their service, soldiers may be confronted with extreme violence, terrible injuries, and devastating losses that can contribute to mental health disorders.
- Difficulty returning from deployment or transitioning out of the military: Service members may undergo a loss of structure, community, and identity as they return home from a deployment. Veterans may have similar and even more severe feelings when they retire from the military. This sense of isolation can contribute to mental health struggles.
- Reluctancy to admit they’re struggling and hesitancy to seek support: Possibly due to the persevering, accountability culture of the military, veterans and service members often refrain from acknowledging their mental health concerns. Not wanting to burden others, they may avoid seeking necessary professional help.
- The tendency for mental health conditions to compound on each other: Mental health disorders often co-occur. Conditions that commonly manifest in veterans and service members can be closely linked and exacerbate one another.
HOW LOVED ONES CAN HELP VETERANS AND SERVICE MEMBERS STRUGGLING WITH MENTAL OR BEHAVIORAL HEALTH
Some ways loved ones can help veterans and service members with mental health issues include:
- Offer to listen: Encourage their openness by listening without necessarily providing them with advice. A non-judgmental, safe, and welcoming environment for them to honestly express themselves can be enough.
- Help them find care. Support them in seeking clinical support and offer to help them find a provider that’s a fit for them.
- Seek help for yourself: Attending a support group for loved ones of veterans and service members can help you obtain more knowledge about your circumstances, provide you with comfort, and allow you to feel less alone. Additionally, seeking mental health care for yourself may be beneficial for helping you cope with any distress and provide you with skills to better support your loved one.
HOW VETERANS CAN BENEFIT FROM MENTAL AND BEHAVIORAL HEALTH THERAPY
Although many veterans and service members contend with mental health concerns, they can manage and improve their mental and behavioral health with clinical support. During therapy, veterans and service members can process their experiences, learn ways to cope with any inner turmoil, and improve their overall well-being.
HOW VETERANS CAN BENEFIT FROM OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY
Occupational therapy can also provide veterans and service members with support for many types of conditions including those that are: neurological, orthopedic, medical, surgical, mental, and behavioral. By helping veterans and service members develop skills to overcome any limitations, occupational therapy can increase their quality of life and empower them to fully participate in meaningful daily activities.
Types of specialized occupational therapy support include:
- Assistive technology: Integrating certain types of technology that allow individuals to independently perform tasks.
- Cognitive rehabilitation: Rehabilitates and strengthens mental processes that may have been damaged from injury or illness.
- Ergonomics: Using modification and adaptations that enable individuals to effectively and safely interact with their environment.
- Falls prevention: Includes interventions such as strengthening muscles and improving balance.
- Hand therapy: Helps optimize the functionality of the arm, wrist, and hand.
- Health and wellness: Encourages individuals to implement strategies that promote their well-being.
- Home modification: Guides individuals in adapting living spaces to promote usage, safety, and independence.
- Low vision: Includes interventions such as teaching individuals visual techniques and training them to use low-vision equipment.
- Pain management: Includes interventions such as using safe body mechanics and proactive pain control.
- Productive aging: Guides individuals in engaging in meaningful activities as they age.
THRIVE WELLNESS’ THERAPEUTIC SUPPORT FOR VETERANS AND SERVICE MEMBERS
At Thrive Wellness, veterans and service members have access to many integrated health services including mental and behavioral health therapy, occupational therapy, and physical health care. Our interdisciplinary clinicians approach client treatment collaboratively in order to provide well-rounded, targeted care. Reach out to learn more.
While all Thrive Wellness locations offer interdisciplinary clinical teams who collaborate to treat eating disorders, perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs), and additional mental and behavioral health conditions, programs and services may vary by location.
About the Authors
Thrive Wellness Reno Therapist Samuel Hunt, LMFT
Samuel Hunt received his master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from Northcentral University and has specialized in serving the LGBTQ+ community for several years. He is passionate about providing gender-affirming therapy, care, and support to a population that is often underserved yet deserving of educated and professional health care as well as advocacy for equal rights.
As a marriage and family therapist at Thrive Wellness Reno, Samuel works with individuals of all ages, especially teenagers and those who identify as transgender. He takes pride in being client-focused as he wholeheartedly believes a client is an expert in their own life. With honor, he offers clients a safe space to express themselves and provides an outside perspective while guiding and empowering them to embrace their true selves.
In addition to traditional therapy, Samuel facilitates a transgender teen group in Northern Nevada and speaks at the University of Nevada, Reno’s medical panel each year to inform and inspire medical students. He is also a member of the Standards of Care Collective in Reno, which reviews the latest LGBTQ+ research and provides support to the LGBTQ+ community, including low-cost gender-affirming letters. Sam also volunteers his time with local charities, such as Our Center and Pride Reno, to help raise awareness about the health care needs of the LGBTQ+ community.
Sam is a military veteran and is currently serving in the Army National Guard while pursuing a degree in interreligious chaplaincy so that he can provide therapy to members of the military. In his spare time, Sam cherishes hiking, camping, and spending time outdoors with his wife and three fur babies.
Thrive Wellness Reno Occupational Therapist Dr. Meadow Deason, OTD, OTR/L
Dr. Meadow Deason earned her doctorate of occupational therapy at Huntington University and is a licensed doctor of occupational therapy (OTD). As an occupational therapist, she has extensive clinical experience in neurological and physical rehabilitation, fall prevention education, community-based services, home health, and mental health. Dr. Deason is also trained in oral motor function assessment, feeding therapy, therapeutic pain education, home modification, aging in place, brain injury rehabilitation, sensory integration, integration of primitive reflexes, neuromuscular rehabilitation, upper extremity rehabilitation, behavioral management, ergonomics, and mindfulness. She partners with individuals and their loved ones to overcome emotional, physical, and social barriers to holistic health through meaningful activities designed to develop, recover, modify, or maintain skills for thriving in everyday life.
Prior to becoming an occupational therapist, Dr. Deason gained years of experience in early childhood intervention, social services, treatment foster care, special education, and business.
When she is not helping her clients live their life to the fullest, she enjoys skiing, hiking, biking, and paddleboarding with her family.