Chicago mom says awareness of depression must extend to our veterans

Robin Williams’ suicide has shined the spotlight on depression. But one group of people is still not getting the attention I think it deserves. I bet you didn’t know that every 65 minutes a military vet takes their own life. That is about 22 lives per day, mostly men under age 30. When I learned this from a family member who fought in Desert Storm, I was shocked. These men and women were barely old enough to vote yet decided to make a sacrifice for all of us.

There is a waiting list months long to get into the VA because they are so short staffed. When they do get in, they are evaluated and leave with a prescription, but no follow-up plan. Many are lost in the system.

I bet you don’t think about all the horror they witnessed during war or how they are left to “deal with it” on a daily basis for the rest of their lives, using more meds and getting less help.

I can’t imagine living their life for 24 hours, fearful to go to sleep because they suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and relive the nightmares when the lights go out for the night. The live with lack of good quality sleep on top of both depression and anxiety. I ask myself, why are we failing our own? Unfortunately the VA database and system is very outdated even though they have increased staffing for their suicide hotline.

Military veterans are viewed as “strong and stable” but physical strength does not equate emotional strength. The problem is we can’t compare their outsides to their struggles on the inside. The lack of awareness in how our vets are treated really bothers me. I see so many when I walk the streets in Chicago and it breaks my heart.

One small organization it trying to help. Dry Hooch provides a safe social space for veterans and their families, helping them to make a safe transition into civilian life.  They offer legal help, housing assistance, resources and addiction treatment. They rely on our donations. It is a small, but mighty non-profit that offers a place where they are not judged. Dry Hooch is expanding nationally and has a location in Chicago.

We need to address mental health disorders seriously and I want to see a better healthcare system for our military vets. While we can’t understand, we can have compassion and love for those who made the choice for our freedom.

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