Members of the Post-9/11 military community, veterans, and their families sought mental health care more than other Americans did as the coronavirus pandemic ramped up.
Cohen Veterans Network conducted a survey of 2,026 Americans between March 30 and April 1, during a time when most of the country was under stay-at-home orders according to Stars and Stripes.
Of those surveyed, 209 were post 9/11 service members or veterans and 221 were military family members. Nearly half reported that they or a family member reached out for mental health help during the initial stages of the coronavirus pandemic. That compares to 14 percent of the survey’s nonmilitary respondents.
“While some may say, ‘Oh, my gosh, there’s a problem there,’ I was thrilled to see it, honestly,” Anthony Hassan, Iraq war veteran and president of Cohen Veterans Network said. “I worked my whole career trying to get people to engage in care early — to get help when they need it. They asked for help. That’s remarkable.”
Cohen Veterans Network operates a nationwide chain of mental health clinics. The survey also found the post-9/11 military community was more knowledgeable of telehealth resources and was five times more likely than the rest of the population to have used them.
“They’re not afraid of using telehealth,” Hassan said. “They know how to use these online platforms.”
Seven out of every 10 post-9/11 veterans surveyed said they were concerned about their mental health due to social distancing guidelines. They were also significantly more likely than other Americans to report feeling lonely, isolated, and to have trouble sleeping than other Americans. Sixty percent reported feeling concerned about their employment.
“If you look at any challenges in America — 9/11, the 2008 recession, hurricanes — people tend not to come right out to get care, but soon thereafter the system is flooded,” Hassan said. “We anticipate seeing a lot of this.”
To cope, Hassan suggested people try to eat well, to sleep, and to exercise but said that it could be difficult while families are all at home together.
Mental health providers and veterans organizations have also joined forces to try to get veterans to connect with each other. Cohen Veterans Network is offering virtual webinars for clients to socialize. AMVETS, the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars have encouraged its members to check in with friends, and Wounded Warrior Project has created a gaming group.
“So many people are left alone and isolated right now, and just to reach out and talk to someone would be a real good thing,” Hassan said.
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