America’s veterans have carried the weight of the War on Terror on their shoulders for more than two decades now. Providing the best possible mental health treatment for veterans is a mission we take very seriously at Cottonwood Tucson. In this article, we will discuss some of the unique mental health challenges veterans face and how we’re helping to make a difference.
What Mental Health Challenges Do Veterans Face?
Combat aside, military life is tough. Moving your family around the country, long deployments, finances, and other stressors can all take a toll on our veterans’ mental health. When you add combat to this mix, it can be extremely overwhelming. Generations of veterans have witnessed and participated in combat across the globe, causing trauma and other challenges to our veterans’ mental health.
- Grief and Loss
- Side-effects of traumatic brain injury
- Post-Traumatic Stress
- Other Trauma-related Conditions
- Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome
Trauma Treatment for Veterans
The effects of trauma are among the most common mental health issues veterans face. The U.S. has been waging its War on Terror for more than 20 years and one of the many costs of war is returning veterans with trauma.
Trauma connected to warfare has existed ever since our Stone Age predecessors first attacked one another over access to watering holes and game. But the serious study of the effects of trauma on the warrior class and how to treat it is surprisingly new.
What is Trauma Exactly?
In mental health terms, trauma refers to the psychological response humans have to emotionally intense or life-threatening experiences. Trauma can also refer to physical trauma, which is a serious bodily injury. Veterans, unfortunately, are often subject to both types of trauma. As you might imagine, physical trauma and the events surrounding it can often lead to emotional trauma as well.
The History of Trauma Care for Vets
World War I was the first wide-scale, modern mechanized war. When troops returned from theater with severe psychological symptoms of trauma they were diagnosed with shell shock or ‘neurasthenia’. Doctors were baffled about how to treat the condition. At the time, electroshock therapy and primitive anesthetics like ether or chloroform were all we could offer for relief.
By the Second World War, our understanding of the impact trauma has on veterans was evolving. Treatment methods began to become more sophisticated. A modified form of Freudian psychology called ‘forward psychiatry’ replaced anesthesia and electroshock therapy. For the first time, treatment for what was, by then, called ‘combat fatigue’ was starting to deliver results.
The Birth of Modern, Evidence-Based Mental Health Care
Medications continued to be part of the solution, with barbiturates gradually giving way to benzodiazepines for anxiety. The compound effects of psychological therapy and medication proved far more effective than medicine alone and recovery rates began to rise appreciably.
Today we have a broad range of therapeutic tools to help veterans and others overcome mental health challenges, process trauma effectively, and heal. While medications still play a role a greater understanding of addiction has led to reliance on antidepressants and a new generation of antianxiety meds which are non-narcotic. Alternative therapies like EMDR and Somatic Experiencing are also proving to be powerful tools for healing.
Is Veterans’ Mental Health Treatment Good Enough?
As a nation, we still need to do more to meet the mental health needs of veterans. Substantial improvements have been made over the decades however and we believe that some veterans are finally beginning to receive the standard of care they deserve.
For example, we continue to learn more about the effects of TBIs every year and trauma treatment for veterans has made tremendous advances. In our view, the issue today isn’t so much developing effective mental health care for vets as it is improving their access to it. The VA MISSION Act passed in 2018 created the Department of Veterans Affairs Community Care Network (CCN).
The CCN replaced the Veterans Choice Program making it possible for many veterans to access the mental health services they needed for the first time. There is still much left to do, but at Cottonwood Tucson, we are optimistic about the future of veterans’ mental health treatment.
Cottonwood Tucson: Serving Those Who Served
Cottonwood Tucson is dedicated to seeing that our veterans have access to high-quality evidence-based mental health treatment. Our Tactical Recovery Program is a Veteran-Ready program for mental health treatment developed in partnership with PsychArmor. We also work directly with the VA’s Community Care Network to help vets access the care they deserve.
We believe Cottonwood is uniquely qualified to provide exceptional care for veterans with mental health challenges like depression, PTS(D) (formerly classified as PTSD), or substance use disorders. Our designated Veteran-Ready program offers several unique, proven therapies that are not available at most veterans’ mental health facilities.
Just a few of the unique treatments offered in our Tactical Recovery Program include:
- EMDR Therapy: Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing or EMDR therapy has proven to be one of the most effective and fastest-acting treatments for veterans with PTSD or other trauma-related conditions.
- Somatic Experiencing Therapy: This innovative form of treatment taps into the body’s fight or flight response to facilitate trauma recovery. Somatic Experiencing Therapy is especially advantageous for veterans who’ve experienced traumatic events.
- Wim Hof Breathing Method: Developed by Dutch extreme athlete Wim Hof, AKA ‘The Iceman’, this technique helps raise oxygen levels, induce relaxation, and much more.
- HeartMath: Also known as Heart Rhythm coherence feedback, this treatment is a form of biofeedback that teaches clients to moderate their body’s physiological stress response.
Cottonwood Tucson Stands Ready to Help
For over 25 years, Cottonwood Tucson has been providing exceptional mental health treatment in the desert foothills just outside Arizona’s Saguaro National Park. If you or someone you love could benefit from our Veteran-Ready program or just needs mental health help, we’re ready to listen. Cottonwood Tucson has solutions. Contact us anytime, 24 hours a day at (888) 433-1069.