According to a 2014 study, nearly 1 in 4 active duty members showed signs of a mental health condition. Those returning with devastating injuries face living with both physical and psychological pain. Tragically, since the beginning of the invasion of Afghanistan, more service members have died as a result of suicide than combat. A diagnosis of mental illness results in immediate separation or discharge from active duty, which may explain why only half of all service personnel affected by the symptoms of mental illness seek treatment.
Help In a Crisis
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255, Press 1; 1-800-273-8255, Press 1; start a confidential chat by texting 838255; if you have hearing loss, call TTY: 800-799-4889
Crisis Text Line: Text NAMI to 741-741 to connect with a trained crisis counselor to receive free, 24/7 crisis support via text message.
NAMI HelpLine: Call 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) M–F, 7 a.m.–3 p.m., PT for free mental health information, referrals and support.
Mental Health Concerns For Military Service Members and Veterans
There are three primary mental health concerns encountered by those serving in the military.
- Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Traumatic events, such as military combat, assault, disasters or sexual assault can have long-lasting negative effects such as trouble sleeping, anger, nightmares, being jumpy and alcohol and drug abuse. When these troubles don’t go away, it could be PTSD. The rate of PTSD may be up to 15 times higher in active duty service members compared to civilians.
- Depression. More than just experiencing sadness, depression doesn’t mean you are weak, nor is it something that you can simply “just get over.” Depression interferes with daily life and normal functioning and may require treatment. The rate of depression may be up to five times higher in active duty service members compared to civilians.
- Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). A traumatic brain injury is usually the result of significant blow to the head or body. Symptoms can include headaches, fatigue or drowsiness, memory problems and mood changes and mood swings.
Help for Military Families
NAMI has an education program called NAMI Homefront for families, caregivers, and friends of military service members and veterans with mental health conditions. NAMI Homefront is taught by trained family members of service members/veterans with mental health conditions and is an adaptation of NAMI’s evidence-based Family-to-Family Education Program.
- 6 educational sessions
- Free program
- Provides ways to identify and access federal, state and local services
- Available online!
Local Project: Healing Garden at The Big Heart Ranch
NAMI WLA is proud to have a program to support veterans, which was started in honor of a veteran. NAMI WLA Board member Shirley Kirby made a generous donation to the affiliate in honor of her brother, U.S. Air Force Sergeant Richard Dale Luehring. Her kind gift led to the creation of the Richard Luehring Healing Garden at The Big Heart Ranch in Malibu. In May 2019, NAMI WLA honored Shirley Kirby’s advocacy and commitment to providing mental health resources for our military veterans.
The project was also created with the leadership of a veteran: Randy Ryan, a U.S. Army’s XVIII Airborne Corps veteran and farmer, led a team of volunteers over many weeks to build and grow the Healing Garden at the Big Heart Ranch. He engaged Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts troops, local community and corporate sponsors, Starbuck employees, and other military volunteers for the garden installation. It now serves as a healing sensory experience for military veterans and other visitors. By providing a connection with animals and nature, it can help reduce stress and ease symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Are you a veteran or military family member with a story to share that can help and inspire others? Share your insights and stories.
Support and Resources
We offer free support groups for those living with mental health conditions and their families.
Support for Veterans During the Pandemic (U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs)