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For many veterans, coming home can mean difficult challenges

When you sign a contract to serve in the military, you are agreeing to lay down your life for our country. When soldiers join a new unit, they must immediately be willing to die for their fellow soldiers – people they didn’t know existed just days before. They are also placing their lives in the hands of those soldiers.
There are very few jobs in the private sector where a person faces the possibility of death 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, far from home, loved ones and the life he knew before the military.

And when that veteran returns home, family members, co-workers and friends who haven’t had the same experiences can be sympathetic, but they cannot possibly fully comprehend what he has been through. They withdraw. They are afraid. They are often angry and distant.

“Veterans are a unique group,” says Patrick Welch, director, Erie County Veterans Services. “They are trained to be warriors. They are taught there is no challenge or obstacle they cannot overcome. It is driven into them to ‘conquer’ and to ‘buck up and persevere’ at all times. When they return to civilian life, they face many challenges related to what they have seen and done in the military.”

Those challenges can include mental health issues and addiction. According to the National Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors, 40 percent of veterans who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan will experience a mental health problem. Of those, 60 percent will have issues with chemical dependency.

Veterans typically are reintegrated into their former lives much too quickly,” says Welch. “There’s not enough ‘decompression time’ for them to readjust. Often, mental health and addiction issues don’t surface for quite awhile and then, when they do, they are exacerbated.”

Mental health and addiction disorders in veterans are often not diagnosed or treated in a timely manner; in fact, more than 25 percent of veterans have to wait 30 days or more for an appointment to be diagnosed.

Research proves that a long-term residential approach to treatment is the most effective, and provides the best opportunity for sustained recovery.

Yet, current available residential treatment services in Western New York meet just 15 percent of the estimated need of veterans, as compared to treatment services downstate that meet 100 percent of the need.

Veterans deserve to be able to get the proper treatment that will help them and help their families. For more information about residential treatment for Veterans dealing with substance use and/or mental health disorders, please visit the Freedom Village page of our website or call (716) 831-1800.