Every health care system must function for the benefit of all people in society, yet, often, it fails to resolve certain challenges. All former military personnel make a considerable contribution to society, but their needs and problems in terms of health care sometimes become overlooked. Veterans constitute a large portion of the U.S. population and, as a group of people, they are often predisposed to mental health issues. There are primary determinants of the mental problems of former servicemen and servicewomen, which can be addressed in order to ensure better health outcomes for the population. Social workers play a vital role both in the provision of interventions which can resolve mental health issues of people who served in the military and advocacy for the improvement of existing policies.
Veterans are people who at some point served in the U.S. military, navy, or air force and were actively involved in armed conflicts. According to Pew Research Center, the number of former servicemen and servicewomen in the United States, as of 2021, stood at 19 million people, which is less than 10% of the entire population (Schaeffer, 2021). The high number of veterans presents a challenge for policymakers because they have to design regulations and laws targeted at ensuring that every person was on active duty has access to health care.
Moreover, research shows that in 2011-2012, there were more than 12% of former military personnel with depression which indicated a significant health disparity compared to the rest of the population (Liu et al., 2019, 714). Moreover, female veterans are particularly susceptible to the problem of depression which makes the issue even more serious (Liu et al., 2019, 714). Thus, the problem of mental health problems among former military personnel is also a gender issue which has to be addressed.
Depression is not the only mental health condition the people who previously served in the military experience in the United States; there are many others. The incidence of posttraumatic stress disorder in the men and women who participated in the operation “Iraqi Freedom” was found to be 17%, whereas, in the general population, the rate is between 1.3% and 7.8% (Beristianos et al., 2016, 192). Moreover, PTSD also acts as a contributing factor to other conditions, including cardiovascular disease. Thus, it is clear that the veteran population in the United States is disproportionately affected by mental health problems.
The mental health issues among veterans have underlying causes, which can be attributed to several primary determinants. The main factor behind veterans’ problems is the traumatic experience they had during their deployment. For instance, some veterans lost their friends in a battle or observed the death of fellow servicemen in close proximity. Additionally, some veterans may struggle mentally due to the fact that they had to kill other human beings. Another determinant of the issue is the lack of spare resources which veterans could spend on a professional therapist or counselor. Studies show that there is a high rate of unemployment among American veterans, which contributes to their financial problems (Kintzle & Castro, 2018).
Finally, the third determinant of mental problems among veterans is the lack of social support experienced by them after deployment. Research demonstrates that veterans are likely to get divorced after they are discharged from the military, which leads to the loss of connections and relationships (Gros et al., 2019). Eventually, some veterans remain alone and do not have a person to talk to, which aggravates their depression and other mental problems.
There are several effective social work interventions which can be implemented to help veterans to address their health problems. The first method involves talking to veterans and assisting them in their transition to civilian life. Social workers should ensure that veterans are not left alone, and they always have support from their relatives and friends. Social workers also must assist veterans in applying for benefits because the lack of resources can ultimately lead to depression and possible substance abuse. The government also must be more committed to solving the health problems of veterans and has to participate more actively in various programs.
For instance, authorities can invest in better training of social workers in advanced psychological therapy in order to provide them with skills necessary for helping the veterans with mental health problems. Finally, social workers have to coordinate their actions with doctors and other health care professionals engaged in the treatment of their veteran clients. Such an interdisciplinary approach can considerably facilitate the process of therapy and reduce the existing disparities for veterans.
Nevertheless, there are certain challenges which can potentially undermine the implementation of the aforementioned interventions. At the same time, there are strategies which can help social workers to overcome any prospective barriers. The first challenge is the negative attitude of veterans to any type of social workers’ activities. Veterans with mental health problems may not want to be bothered by any individual trying to interact with them.
The key to overcoming such a problem is speaking to the client and persuading them that they can benefit from social work. Similarly, the family of a veteran can oppose the involvement of a social worker; therefore, such a problem should be solved by holding conversations with family members. Some veterans may not be eligible for certain benefits; therefore, social workers must find alternative ways to assist their clients in receiving financial support. Government programs featuring additional training for social workers may not be implemented due to the lack of funding. The solution to the problem would be to hold advocacy campaigns and present evidence in favor of advanced therapy training.
Advocacy is an essential element of social workers’ practice since it directly benefits their clients. In order to advance the resolution of disparities in health care in terms of mental problems among veterans, social workers need to perform several activities. Social workers can form coalitions, as well as employ the means of labor unions and community efforts to advocate for better treatment of veterans with mental problems (Ruth et al., 2019).
First, social workers can advocate for new policies designed specifically for addressing the mental health problems among veterans. Advocacy activities may include meetings with local authorities and members of Congress and presenting to them information on how to address the health disparity in question. Additionally, social workers can engage in advocacy by simply facilitating the process of the provision of benefits and other social support services to veterans.
The problem of mental health of U.S. veterans is a topical issue which must be addressed more effectively from the perspective of health care. Many people who were discharged from the military experience PTSD and depression, as well as other conditions. There are many determinants of such problems, but the primary one is veterans’ experience during wars. Social workers must assist veterans by providing them with social support, helping them to apply for benefits, and facilitate their transition to civilian life. Additionally, social workers must cooperate with health care professionals to deliver medical services to veterans undergoing treatment.
Beristianos, M. H., Yaffe, K., Cohen, B., & Byers, A. L. (2016). PTSD and risk of incident cardiovascular disease in aging veterans. The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 24(3), 192–200. Web.
Gros, D., Lancaster, C., Teves, J., Libet, J., & Acierno, R. (2019). Relations between post-deployment divorce/separation and deployment and post-deployment stressors, social support, and symptomatology in veterans with combat-related PTSD symptoms. Journal of Military, Veteran and Family Health, 5(2), 125–135. Web.
Kintzle, S., & Castro, C. A. (2018). Examining veteran transition to the workplace through military transition theory. Research in Occupational Stress and Well-Being, 16, 117–127. Web.
Liu, Y., Collins, C., Wang, K., Xie, X., & Bie, R. (2019). The prevalence and trend of depression among veterans in the United States. Journal of Affective Disorders, 245, 724–727. Web.
Ruth, B., Wachman, M., & Marshall, J. (2019). Public health social work. In S. Gehlert & T. Browne (Eds.), Handbook of health social work (3d ed.) (pp. 93–118). John Wiley & Sons.
Schaeffer, K. (2021). The changing face of America’s veteran population. Pew Research Center. Web.