Why Vets Don't Seek Help

The Decompression Dilemma

The Biggest Challenge for Veterans in Receiving Help is the Inability to Ask

The current systems and approaches for helping Veterans through the trials of homecoming are in immediate need of support from the civilian sector. If the existing programs were succeeding, the adverse impact on society and the epidemic of suicides statistics would be declining, not at an all time high.

Military training does a thorough job of conforming and compressing the hearts and minds of young adults entering the armed forces. One would think that given our nation’s history of war and of bringing warriors home, that a proven and equally effective decompression process would exist for assimilating Veterans back into family and civilian life. A process that preserves the leadership qualities and positive attributes of the military experience but also helps each individual to heal the invisible wounds of war. Unfortunately, this is not the case. At present, there are only voluntary  counseling resources but no processes or programs for decompressing the stress and trauma of these same hearts and minds prior to separating from the military and coming home. Consequently, over 180,000 former military personnel reenter society each year in the U.S. of which many have suffered extreme emotional and physical stress without the understanding and resources to comfortably integrate back into family, community and civilian employment.

Because Veterans are trained to be self-reliant and to “complete the mission” at all cost, it is unacceptable for many of them to ask for help or to receive assistance when offered. Historically, this has been a major barrier to receiving care and continues to be the case with present day Veterans.

Statistics from Vietnam era and current day Veterans consistently show that despite the best efforts of the military, the Veterans Administration and other providers, it is not enough (by themselves) to prevent thousands of veterans and their families from falling through the cracks of our society. To illustrate this point, you need only to pick up any newspaper, watch any news channel or use any search engine to find an alarming volume of tragic statistics indicating our returning Veterans and their families are in trouble.

The Pentagon's 2005 survey revealed that 44 percent of soldiers thought seeking mental health treatment would damage their career. Veterans who are reluctant to seek help fall into a higher “at risk” group who are prone to alcoholism, drug addiction, domestic violence, divorce, homelessness, incarceration and suicide. Nearly 60% of Veterans who suffer from significant combat related stress perceive a barrier to seeking care and help for the following reasons:

  1. Fear of being stigmatized by their peers and superiors
  2. Fear of documentation in their medical records
  3. The personal pride of being a warrior creates a significant aversion to appearing vulnerable by asking for help.
  4. Apprehension to talking with counselors, especially if they are civilians or non-Combat Veterans: The implication to a Veteran when counseling is suggested is they are broken and in need of being fixed.