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Just like physical health, mental health is important at every stage of life and is essential to your overall well-being.
Although Veterans can often recognize when to treat their physical injuries, it can be harder for them to identify mental health or readjustment challenges. Some Veterans — or their loved ones — may notice symptoms and experiences affecting their lives, but aren’t sure what to do about them. Others may think nothing can be done or may have concerns about the impact of treatment.
About Seeking Mental Health Treatment
- For almost every mental health condition, there are a number of effective treatments that can help you cope with symptoms and greatly improve your quality of life.
- You may need to work with your physician or mental health professional and to try different types of treatment before finding the one that’s best for you. VA specializes in providing care for Veterans, and it has clinicians who can help you find the right combination of care and treatment for your unique situation.
- Most treatments can produce positive and meaningful changes in symptoms and quality of life after just a brief amount of time.
- Treatment can help you understand your condition and change how you think about it, in part by identifying steps to improve your response to emotional triggers, stressful situations, and other challenges in your life.
Types of Treatment
The following types of treatment may be used independently or in combination:
- Therapy or counseling can help you learn new ways of thinking, practice positive behaviors, and take active steps to move beyond your symptoms. Cognitive behavioral therapy is one type of counseling that research shows is effective for a number of different mental health challenges. Therapy or counseling may be one-on-one, in a group, with you and your family, or some combination of these approaches.
- Medications work in different ways to manage the chemicals in your brain that may affect the way you feel.
- Self-help approaches may be used to support other treatments and may include participating in 12-step meetings and using apps or other tools suggested by your treatment provider. VA has developed useful Web-based training tools and apps for Veterans, several of which can be found here: www.veterantraining.va.gov
- Peer support services, in which Veterans who have experienced mental health challenges themselves provide support to fellow Veterans, can be a powerful resource during the journey of recovery.
VA’s Guide to Mental Health Services describes what happens when you request mental health services from VA, discusses the different settings in which treatment is delivered, and lists the treatments for specific conditions, as well as providing other helpful information.
When to Get Treatment
- Whether you just returned from a deployment, were stateside during your whole time in service, or have been home for 40 years, it’s never too late to get treatment or support for the challenges you face. Even Veterans who didn’t realize they were dealing with a mental health condition for many years have improved their lives with treatment.
- If you’ve just started experiencing symptoms — even if you aren’t even sure if anything is really wrong — reach out now. Receiving treatment as soon as possible may help prevent your symptoms from getting worse.
Factors That Can Affect Treatment
- Some conditions occur alongside other mental or physical challenges, which may mask certain symptoms or make them worse. It’s helpful to have a full physical exam and mental health assessment for an accurate understanding of what’s going on.
- Sometimes, alcohol or drug use can make mental health conditions worse and their treatments less effective. Reducing your alcohol or drug use may be an important step toward getting the full benefits of your treatment. There are VA and community treatment options available to help you decrease your alcohol or drug use, if needed.
Recovering from a mental health challenge is a process that involves hope, action, problem-solving, and tapping into or building up your support system — in addition to close guidance from a trained professional. In recent years, research from around the world has dramatically increased our understanding of mental health conditions and how to treat them, enabling the successful treatment and recovery every day of Veterans who experience these conditions. Our video gallery has hundreds of real stories from Veterans whose lives prove that treatment can work and recovery is possible.