A few days ago, I read a disheartening article about homeless vets.
The article was saying that the homeless even included veterans of our current wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The article said:
"Some advocates say such an early presence of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan at shelters does not bode well for the future. It took roughly a decade for the lives of Vietnam veterans to unravel to the point that they started showing up among the homeless. Advocates worry that intense and repeated deployments leave newer veterans particularly vulnerable
“We’re going to be having a tsunami of them eventually because the mental health toll from this war is enormous,” said Daniel Tooth, director of veterans affairs for Lancaster County, Pa."
I asked a few friends (some who work with Veterans) to give their opinions as to why this has happened so fast. In addition to the reasons above (intense, repeated deployments), the idea was given that Reservists coming back have been having trouble getting their jobs back (or have lost their businesses from repeated deployments), and haven't been getting much help from the government they've spent the last several years serving in a dangerous war zone.
You don't have a job, you lose your home, your wife and family leave you, this sequence of events could take down even the strongest of people.
Several days ago, I wrote a blog called Change or Die in which I reviewed a book with the same title. I said that treating these vets was going to be a huge issue, and that there was someone out there who would be the Dr. Dean Ornish or Dr. Mimi Silbert of this crisis (they were two unconventional change agents profiled in the book). This person (or persons) will probably be someone who is doing it differently, against the conventional wisdom.
A few days later, I read an encouraging profile in the Washington Post about an organization called Give an Hour. According to their website (http://www.giveanhour.org/cms/index.php), they are:
"currently establishing a national network of mental health professionals and reaching out to our first target population, the U.S. troops and families affected by the current military conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq."
This is only a band aid and stopgap at best. I'm sure those in the military treatment communities probably don't like this one bit. But, it proves that there are people out there who are working on this problem, and are looking for creative solutions rather than just throwing the hands up and saying, well, the VA is full, or there is no military treatment facility in my area, so there is no hope.
According to Change or Die, the first step to lasting change is:
1. Relate. You form a new, emotional relationship with a person or community that inspires and sustains hope (the other two are: 2. Repeat. The new relationship helps you learn, practice, and master the new habits and skills that you'll need. 3. Reframe. The new relationship helps you learn new ways of thinking about your situation and your life).
Hope, and a shot to live a normal life. Isn't that something that someone who has served our country valiantly deserves?