Veterans and Mental Health

Written by Randall W. Cribbs, USA, 1SG (Retired)


When a civilian decides they want to join the military, they leave what they have known and have a vague idea of what will take place. Yes, we read articles and watch shows, but until you are there, you do not the know the full impact that will hit you in the face, and you cannot change your mind at that point. The transition is designed to, for lack of better words, take the civilian out of you and put the military mindset in place. This is important, as service members must react, many times before thinking.

We do our time in the service and are discharged. We often compare our service to the civilian world and frankly, there are many times when in our military minds it makes no sense, but we must adapt.

How do we adapt? Some make a smooth transition, begin working, and treat this as a new chapter in their lives. Others, depending on the type or reason for discharge combined with their experience during active duty, deployments, etc., do not know where to turn as nothing seems to make sense. Alcohol is readily available in the service so some fall back on this crutch and begin to self-medicate. Others progress into drug use. For those who experience traumatic events, they do not trust many and find it hard to understand their purpose. So they may begin self-medicating to cope with where they are now.

Anxiety and panic attacks are more common in Veterans as they cannot find where they fit and often cannot find anyone who seems to care. So they turn to survival mode and focus on existing. Many become homeless. The result of their service has left them in no position to understand what the next step may be and often leads to suicide as they see this as their best possible option. At one point we were losing 22 Veterans a day to suicide. Today the numbers are a little better. But even one life lost is too many.

Where Veterans can receive mental health support ranges from the VA depending on discharge status, circumstances, and one’s ability to get there as many Veterans are homeless. There are various non-profit agencies that offer services at low or greatly reduced cost. This often comes with session limits. Since not everyone makes the same progress, this can be more of a negative than a positive effect. There are many different agencies across the US that offer help as well.

In the DFW area there is “One Tribe Foundation” (Formerly 22Kill) that helps Veterans regardless of discharge status. One Tribe has limited grant funding that covers a predetermined number of appointments at no cost to the Veteran and also  provides services for family members.

 MHMR has programs for Veterans of different status as well. There is a National Veterans Foundation (1-855-838-5444) that assists Veterans in need of mental health resources. There are the VSO’s such as the American Legion, VFW, AMVETS, and other that can help veterans connect with resources. The Veterans Crisis Line is 1-800-273-8255 and can assist. There is the Cohen Veterans Network at (214) 903-4148 and Recovery Resources at (817) 332-6329, along with the Chris Kyle Patriots Hospital at (907) 258-7575 and that can help assist connecting Veterans to services.

Veterans can get help navigating mental health resources and other services with assistance from the Denton County Veteran Community Navigators. Learn more >