Traumatic Brain Injury & Veterans

Unfortunately, veteran experiences during service can lead to mental and physical damage, including traumatic brain injury (TBI). According to the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center (DVBIC) around 414,000 American service members and veterans experienced a traumatic brain injury between 2000 and 2019.

It is essential for veterans with an expected or official diagnosis of TBI to get treatment. Without treatment, TBIs can lead to more physical and mental health difficulties. Treatment can allow for fulfilling lives surrounded by friends, family, and loved ones.

What is a TBI?

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a severe injury that impacts how the brain works. These injuries can be caused by getting bumped, jolted, or hit in the head. It can also be caused by a penetrating injury, such as a gunshot.

There are several ways to get a TBI. For example, athletes who play a contact sport, like football, might be at risk of getting a TBI. In addition, someone can get a TBI after getting into a vehicle accident or suffering from a severe fall.

TBIs affect a significant amount of people. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the United States saw over 64,000 deaths related to TBI in 2020. The CDC also estimates that roughly two percent of the population live with a disability that results from a TBI.

While anyone can get a traumatic brain injury, specific populations are more likely to experience it, including:

  • People who live in rural areas
  • Veterans and service members
  • People experiencing homelessness
  • Intimate partner violence survivors
  • Those in correctional and detention facilities

Military service men and women risk getting a TBI through experiencing explosions in combat or even from vigorous training exercises.

TBI Symptoms

Depending on the severity of the traumatic brain injury, it may be or may not be immediately evident that a person has one. One thing to consider is whether the person at risk of developing a TBI has recently suffered from a blow to the head.

Some additional symptoms to look for when determining whether a person might have a TBI include:

  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Constant headaches
  • Slurred speech
  • Light sensitivity
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Seizures
  • Increased aggressiveness in relationships
  • Difficulty maintaining relationships
  • Extreme mood swings or even personality changes
  • Depression
  • Confusion
  • Memory loss
  • Vision problems
  • Hearing problems
  • Motor impairment (for severe cases)

If a person is experiencing these symptoms after a head injury, they will need an official diagnosis. A diagnosis can be made after completing a series of testing. These tests can involve X-rays, MRIs, and CAT scans. Imaging allows doctors to look inside the brain and identify any visible damage.

TBIs in Veterans

TBIs among veterans are common, however 82.4 %  were considered mild according to the Department of Defense. Another 9.1 percent were considered moderate, and 1 percent were considered severe.

However mild cases may be, they can still cause disruptions in the lives of the diagnosed veterans. Some veterans might experience sleep disorders, headaches, irritability, and memory problems. These symptoms make it challenging to hold down a job or maintain healthy family relationships.

These symptoms can lead to long-term mental and physical health problems. Such problems may impact veterans’ employment opportunities and make it more difficult to reintegrate into civilian life.

While historically, veterans have developed TBIs, they are becoming more prominent with recent activity. According to studies, 22 percent of combat wounds from the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq were brain injuries. In comparison, 12 percent of combat wounds in Vietnam were TBIs.

When considering the severity of TBI, doctors will consider many things, including:

  • The severity of brain swelling, bruising, or bleeding as seen on computed tomography (CT) scan
  • Length of loss of consciousness
  • Length of memory loss
  • The individual’s responsiveness after injury

A concussion is another term for a mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI). These can be more challenging to identify immediately than severe TBI because concussions do not always appear on imaging tests. Additionally, TBI symptoms are similar to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms. PTSD is another disorder that impacts the veteran population at relatively high rates.

TBIs & PTSD

Although they may share similar symptoms, being diagnosed with a TBI is not the same as being diagnosed with PTSD. However, there is some overlap between the two conditions.

Often, veterans diagnosed with TBI end up also being diagnosed with PTSD. This is because they got a TBI due to a traumatic event, usually a combat-related incident. The more traumatic the incident that caused the TBI, the more likely the person will also have PTSD.

The symptoms that TBIs and PTSD share include:

  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Mood swings
  • Extreme irritability

TBIs are not always visually apparent. It is crucial for veterans who have been diagnosed with PTSD and have symptoms of TBI to seek medical treatment. A medical professional can help address the issues of both TBIs and PTSD.

Treatment for TBIs in Veterans

A traumatic brain injury is not exclusive to veterans. However, it seems that veterans who suffer from a TBI tend to exhibit symptoms for a more extended period than civilians. While many civilians can recover from a mild TBI within three months, it takes veterans 18 – 24 months to recover.

Additionally, veterans with a traumatic brain injury often have overlapping medical conditions that can slow their recovery. These conditions can include chronic pain, substance abuse, and PTSD.All of these factors are why it is so critical for veterans to seek treatment if they have a suspected or diagnosed TBI.

Some treatments that can help veterans with a TBI include:

  • Physical therapy
  • Speech therapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Cognitive therapy
  • Medication to control specific symptoms

Mental Health Help for Veterans in San Diego

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) can cause physical and mental health difficulties in veterans. With proper treatment, veterans can manage their symptoms and get back to living fulfilling lives.

If you or a veteran you love are struggling with mental health disorder symptoms, reach out to Solara Mental Health today. Our team can answer any questions you may have and give you a better understanding of our veteran mental health services.

Veterans & Substance Abuse

Veteran substance abuse is a significant issue throughout the United States. In fact, according to a National Survey on Drug Use and Health in 2019, 26.9% of veterans abused illicit drugs. While approximately 80.8% (four in five) abused alcohol, and 7.7% (one in 13) misused both.

What is Substance Use Disorder (SUD)?

Substance use disorder (SUD), often called “addiction,” is a mental health disorder. This disorder causes people to have trouble controlling their use of drugs, alcohol, and other substances. This misuse, when left untreated, can start influencing many areas of life.

Mental illness, such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), is also a considerable concern among military personnel. Substance abuse can result in mental health problems. Research involving returning soldiers shows that 20% of active soldiers and 42% of reserve component soldiers required mental health treatment. These statistics come directly from clinicians.

Some individuals attempt to cope with symptoms of PTSD by using alcohol or drugs. There’s a relationship between PTSD and substance abuse, such as using drugs or drinking too much. More than two of 10 veterans with PTSD also deal with Substance Use Disorder.

Nearly one out of every three veterans seeking veteran substance abuse treatment also has PTSD. Fortunately, some treatments help treat both substance abuse and PTSD simultaneously.At Solara Mental Health Treatment Center in San Diego, we take Veterans’ mental health seriously. We do everything in our power to provide our Veterans in need with the adequate treatment they deserve.

Signs of Substance Abuse in Veterans

Some signs of Veteran substance abuse include:

  • Lack of ability to stop using drugs or drinking, even though there are negative consequences
  • Increased urge to use drugs or drink
  • Experiencing symptoms of withdrawal or feeling sick when drug use or drinking stops
  • Change in relationships because of drug use or drinking
  • Increased tolerance where there’s an increased need for more potent drugs or more alcohol over time to achieve the desired effect
  • Feeling anxious or depressed about their substance use

The good news is that recovery from SUD or alcohol abuse is possible.

There are treatments available to veterans, such as:

  • Medication
  • Specialized therapy
  • In- and outpatient care
  • Support groups

Risk Factors for Veterans Substance Abuse

The unique military culture and stresses of deployments provide both protective factors and risks related to substance abuse. Active-duty personnel faces a unique set of challenges while they are deployed.

Deployment is linked with:

  • Drug use
  • Unhealthy drinking
  • Smoking initiation
  • Risky behaviors

Many factors contribute to the stigma of drug use while in the military. These factors include lack of confidentiality, zero-tolerance policies, and mandatory random drug testing. The stigma and consequences of drug use can discourage many who require treatment from getting it.

Veterans are also impacted immensely by several critical problems related to substance abuse, such as:

  • Pain
  • Environmental stressors
  • Trauma
  • Suicide risk
  • Homelessness

Pain

Many Veterans have unique pain-management problems. Two-thirds of veterans report experiencing pain. Over 9% report dealing with severe pain, whereas only 6.4% of non-veterans report experiencing severe pain. This puts Veterans at a greater risk for an accidental overdose of opioid pain relievers.

Trauma

Increased combat exposure that involves trauma and violence experienced by individuals who serve leads to a higher risk of alcohol abuse.

Environmental Stressors

All Veterans go through a readjustment period after leaving the military. They need to adjust to re-entering their lives with friends, family, and their community. This leaves them with unique mental health issues. Various military personnel-specific environmental stressors have been associated with an increased SUD risk among Veterans and military personnel, including:

  • Combat exposure
  • Deployment
  • Post-deployment reintegration/civilian issues

Among Veterans seeking first-time care within the Veterans Health Administration system, almost 11% meet SUD diagnosis criteria.

Co-Occurring Mental Health Conditions

Many Veterans with Substance Use Disorder often have a co-occurring mental health disorder. These disorders may include PTSD, anxiety, or depression.
Those injured during combat, hospitalized, or experienced trauma have a greater risk for increased drug or alcohol use. Veterans with Substance Use Disorder are three to four times more likely to be diagnosed with depression or PTSD.

Among recent Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans, 63% who receive a SUD diagnosis also meet PTSD criteria. Veterans with a dual diagnosis of SUDs and PTSD have a greater risk of having additional co-occurring disorders. These disorders can be both medical and psychiatric.

These disorders may include:

Suicidal Behavior

In the military, substance abuse frequently precedes suicidal behavior. Drug or alcohol use was involved in around 30% of suicides in the Army. In 2003, substance abuse was related to over 45% of veteran suicide attempts. Also, approximately 20% of high-risk behavior fatalities were linked to drug or alcohol overdose.

Homelessness

It’s estimated that around 11% of homeless adults are U.S. military Veterans. And these homeless Veterans are dealing with unique barriers and challenges to SUD treatment. It is essential to identify the needs of homeless veterans. By identifying what challenges and needs the person has, a foundation for assistance can occur.

Some factors that help support homeless veterans are:

  • Outreach services
  • Supportive services
  • Housing assistance
  • Case management
  • Mental health treatment
  • Substance abuse treatment

Veterans may be more likely to accept treatment for substance abuse when they have mental health and housing security.

Treatment for Substance Abuse in Veterans

For Veterans with substance use disorders or alcoholism, the essential first steps toward lasting recovery are detox and medication management. This is the case for veterans with co-occurring disorders as well. We provide our clients at Solara Mental Health with supervised medical detoxification, if required, before starting them on treatment. We refer them to one of our partnering centers, which are long-established, licensed, and very credible detox facilities.

Detoxification

Through our detoxification, patients go through the physical process where their bodies expel toxins (i.e., drugs, alcohol, medications, etc.) under the supervision of a physician who monitors the whole detox process. The length of this process will vary based on the client’s needs.
Our doctors will prescribe detox medications to keep our clients comfortable during the detox process if needed. During this period, clients typically rest, but they may also engage in other activities when they feel they can.

Medication Management

Most clients participating in our program have a few medications prescribed to them. Our staff and program psychiatrist will review and assess all medication regimens. We do this to make sure our clients are taking the most effective medication possible. Our mental health professionals will ensure that clients feel comfortable with the medicines they are prescribed.

Help for Veterans in San Diego

Addiction and substance abuse are common mental health disorders that veterans struggle with. Addiction can be treated with psychotherapy and medication management when needed. Veterans often turn to substances when struggling with mental health conditions like PTSD, depression, or anxiety.

Solara Mental Health in San Diego, CA offers mental health services to veterans. If you or a veteran you love are struggling with mental health, reach out to Solara today. Our team can answer any questions you may have and give you a better understanding of our veteran mental health services.

Veterans Service Animals

Returning to civilian life is often more difficult than veterans may anticipate. Especially if they develop certain mental or physical health conditions while serving or after getting home. Service members and their families can face a variety of challenges when veterans make the transition to civilian life.

Many veterans find that adopting a service animal is helpful when learning to live a happier and more independent life. However, it is important that service animal assistance is combined with other treatment options. Keep reading for an overview of some of the most common mental and physical health conditions veterans experience. As well as information on service animals and their benefits in helping veterans adjust to civilian life.

Mental Health Disorders Veterans Struggle With

Many veterans are diagnosed with various mental health disorders during and after their deployments. These mental health conditions can interfere with a veteran’s ability to successfully return to civilian life. Even veterans who do not return home with physical injuries can be deeply impacted by their service.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD is a condition most common to veterans and most studied by professionals. This condition causes flashbacks that feel realistic, nightmares, and other negative memories of traumatic events. These flashbacks to wartime events have long-term effects, impacting approximately 10-20 percent of veterans. Flashbacks can be triggered by loud noises, references, and other situations that strongly remind them of past events.

Depression

Traumatic experiences during deployment can also lead to depression, especially after a veteran has left the military. The brain is often capable of protecting individuals from the full effects of experiencing trauma, in the moment. However, once veterans are removed from active duty, the psychological effects of military service may appear. Upon returning to civilian life, veterans may experience distress as they relive their time in combat.

Veterans may face intense feelings of guilt or anxiety upon their return home. Returning to civilian life can uncover a wide range of emotions for veterans. In many cases, these emotions may feel overwhelming. If left unaddressed these distressing thoughts and feelings can lead to depression.

Substance Use Disorders

Many veterans turn to excessive alcohol or drug use to cope with the mental and physical effects of military life. It is possible for substance abuse to occur on its own. Some veterans may have had an existing substance use disorder prior to enlisting in the military. However, it is not uncommon for substance use disorder to be paired with other mental health conditions in veterans.

Health Conditions Veterans Struggle With

Veterans can also struggle with certain physical health conditions more frequently than the general population. Dealing with these challenges to physical health may make them more vulnerable to developing mental health conditions.

Traumatic Brain Injuries

Certain types of traumatic brain injuries can make it difficult for veterans to think clearly enough to accomplish certain tasks. Some injuries can make it physically difficult to do things most people can do easily. These injuries often require extensive rehabilitation to move toward any semblance of a normal life. Extensive rehabilitation services for traumatic brain injuries can be difficult for veterans and their families to afford.

Chronic Pain

Many veterans that experienced severe injuries will live with chronic pain for years or even the majority of their lives. Chronic pain can have an impact on how veterans are able to live their day-to-day lives. Some veterans may no longer be able to engage in their favorite hobbies or complete tasks that were once easy. Some veterans may choose to manage their chronic pain through medication, which can turn into dependency when left unchecked.

Physical Disabilities

Some serious injuries may result in physical disabilities that make it difficult to live a normal life. Injuries that may have impaired a veteran’s ability to accomplish everyday tasks are fairly common in the military. If a veteran has lost a limb physically or has limited mobility, they face physical challenges every day. These disabilities can lead to depression and make readjusting to civilian life even harder than it can be for other veterans.

How Service Animals Can Help

Service animals can help many veterans with these mental and physical health conditions. These animals can help manage their symptoms and improve the quality of their lives. Service animals typically fall into two categories of training.

Traditional service animals are specially trained to help their companion with physical tasks, typically a trained service dog. Emotional support animals are trained to help their companion improve mental health. Veterans may need to consider what type of service animal they need based on their specific situations.

Both types of service animals are specially trained to assist their owners in specific ways. Service animals are trained to assist veterans with independent living and improve their overall outlook on life. Even when the challenges they are facing seem impossible, service animals can assist veterans to return to civilian life.

Where to Find a Service Animal

Veterans have the option to find a service animal through traditional methods. However, there are several organizations that were created specifically to help veterans find just the right service animal for them. These service animals are trained specifically to handle conditions that most frequently affect veterans.

Some of the best options for finding a service animal as a veteran include:

The VA does not typically provide the actual service animals to veterans. However, the VA will assist veterans with finding a good fit at a reputable organization for their specific needs. The VA can help find an organization that specializes in training dogs who are specifically intended to be paired with veterans.

Get Veteran Mental Health Services at Solara

Service animals are generally the most effective when paired with other treatment options. Veterans returning from military service have many options in caring for their mental health. Solara Mental Health is a top choice among veterans in San Diego and surrounding areas. We offer a wide range of mental health treatments to veterans.

Receiving specialized therapy and treatment can help ease veterans’ transition from military to civilian life. Therapy can be especially helpful for veterans who are experiencing difficulty transitioning to civilian life. We provide treatment options to veterans in our care at Solara.

Our team of trained professionals has a proven history of supporting veterans’ mental health. Contact Solara today to learn more about the mental health services we offer for veterans.

Veteran Homelessness

In the US, Veterans make up about six percent of the population, but eight percent of the homeless.  Veterans are at an increased risk of homelessness due to war activity and an increased likelihood of developing mental health disorders.

Veteran homelessness seems to grow as a problem that doesn’t have an easy solution. The Veteran’s Administration (VA) struggles to help the ever-increasing numbers of homeless vets but struggles to keep up with the problem. Understanding the causes and risks of veteran homelessness can help reduce the homeless veteran population.

What Is Veteran Homelessness?

A veteran served in one of the branches of the United States military — Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Space Force. Veterans may have served during wartime and participated in war abroad. Since the mid-1970s, service in the military has been voluntary.

After finishing military service, a service member is considered a veteran indefinitely. Participation in a conflict zone has occurred during time spent in the military to be regarded as a war veteran. However, not every veteran leaves the military service and can afford to rent or buy a home.

In some cases, a veteran doesn’t have access to a safe, reliable home and becomes homeless. Other cases where veterans suffer from mental health issues that become exacerbated during the service. When struggling with mental health disorders finding the resources to deal with issues after discharge from military service can be challenging.

Once back in civilian life, these veterans can struggle to get the mental health care needed and become homeless. Addiction is also a big contributor to the homeless veteran population. According to the VA, in January of 2020, there were 37,252 homeless veterans, and this number represents a 50 percent decrease in homeless veterans since 2009.

Who Does Veteran Homelessness Affect?

Not all veterans and war veterans become homeless after leaving the military.

The homeless veteran population has served in a variety of conflicts, including:

  • World War II
  • Korean War
  • Vietnam War
  • Grenada
  • Panama
  • Lebanon
  • Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan)
  • Operation Iraqi Freedom

According to the 2021 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR), these are some of the statistics concerning the veteran homeless population:

  • Veterans make up more than 8 percent of the sheltered homeless population. More than 75 percent of homeless veterans struggle with some form of addiction.
  • 19.750 veterans were experiencing sheltered homelessness in 2021
  • Almost all of the veterans experiencing sheltered homeless were doing so on an individual level without family
  • 92% of  homeless veterans were male, which is similar to the percentage of men who are veterans in the US (91%)
  • 18,243 beds in shelters were dedicated to veterans in 2021
  • African American veterans made up more than one-third of the homeless veteran population, although 12% of the overall veteran population is African American
  • California has the highest rate of homeless veterans in the US, with 16%

In this study, sheltered homelessness occurs when living in places like emergency shelters, transitional housing programs, and other supportive settings. Unsheltered homelessness occurs when living in places not meant for habitation like cars, parks, sidewalks, and abandoned buildings.

Many homeless veterans struggle with an addiction or a mental health disorder. As part of the homeless population, veterans find it difficult to get the healthcare and services needed to recover and return to a normal life.

What Are Some of the Causes of Homelessness in Veterans?

As with the homeless population in general, the veterans in this situation highlight some common causes for their current state. The causes of veteran homeless can vary based on experiences and predispositions to other conditions.

Most common causes of veteran homelessness include:

  • Skills learned in service do not translate to high-paying jobs in the private sector
  • High cost of housing produces a challenge to rent or buy a home with low-income
  • Struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol can make it difficult to maintain employment and housing
  • Lacking immediate family or a network of friends that can provide temporary housing
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) affects many veterans who served during combat missions, and the symptoms leave them unable to maintain jobs and relationships
  • Mental health disorders left untreated can cause difficulties maintaining housing and social relationships

The key to minimizing homelessness in the veteran population is to address its causes. Determining the root cause of homelessness in veterans can help reduce homelessness and ease a return to civilian life.

Risk Factors of Veteran Homelessness

Certain situations and conditions can put a veteran at risk for homelessness. While the risk factors don’t guarantee that the veteran will become homeless, it’s advisable to be aware of and monitor these risk factors.

Risk factors for veteran homeless can include:

  • Low paying or unskilled jobs
  • Living at or below the poverty line based on the area of residence
  • Struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol
  • Lacking a close family connection or a reliable social network
  • Struggling with mental health disorders
  • Living in an area that is economically depressed without access to medical care, nutritious food, and safe, affordable housing

Final Thoughts

Veteran homelessness is an ongoing concern without an easy solution. Veterans ‘ mental health and substance abuse struggles are a big risk factor for veteran homelessness. Offering treatment for struggling veterans can mitigate the risk of losing a home or shelter.

Solara Mental Health in San Diego, CA, is partnered with the VA to offer mental health services to veterans in need. If you or a veteran you love is struggling with mental health disorders, reach out to us today. Our team can answer any questions you may have and give you a better understanding of our veteran mental health program.

Tips for Veterans to Find a Civilian Job After the Military

Approximately 200,000 men and women leave the U.S. military service every year and transition to civilian life. Veterans may have become accustomed to the rigors of a military routine. Most veterans’ biggest challenge is deciding their career path following their discharge.

Military experience can be valuable to many employers due to the proven work ethic and dedication to the services. Finding the right job includes being prepared and putting in the work. Understanding how the skills and training developed during the service can translate to a civilian career can help make the transition to civilian life smoother.

What Is The Best Fit For You?

The best options for successful employment in civilian life will be various factors. To start thinking about a new career, consider what skills have been developed while serving this country.

In addition to those hard skills that are trained in the military, including soft skills such as:

  • Leadership
  • Financial responsibility
  • Teamwork
  • Effective communications
  • Integrity
  • A strong work ethic
  • Attention to detail
  • Ability to perform well under pressure

After developing a list of skills, helpful options are available if further assistance is needed. MilConnect Verification of Military Training (VMET) can be useful for providing a list of skills trained and developed during a military career if difficulty determining skillset arises. The US Department of Labor offers tools such as self-assessments.

Degreed vs. Non-Degreed Options

Whether or not a college degree has been obtained will impact the number of options. Obtaining a degree can create numerous options for a successful career. GI Bill benefits can help find college courses or degree programs that spark interest if a degree has not been accomplished at little to no cost.

Job options without a college degree include:

  • Automotive mechanic
  • Personal trainer
  • Electrician
  • Police officer/Security guard
  • Construction technician or landscape designer
  • Aviation technicians
  • Sales representatives
  • Account, Sales, Operations, Project, Human Resources, Quality Assurance, or Supply Chain Manager
  • Financial analyst
  • Truck driver
  • Mechanical, Network Security, or Software Engineer
  • Information security analyst
  • Database administrator

Many of these careers can offer growth opportunities after earning a degree and experience while getting a degree. Each of these options draws on skills commonly developed in the military.

Public Sector vs. Private Sector

The public sector offers many unique benefits for veterans at all experience levels. When working in the public sector, the work is for the state or federal government. Private sector jobs can be found almost anywhere. However, looking for companies with government contracts can combine the best use of skills and knowledge.

Public Sector Civilian Jobs

Many government jobs will have a hiring preference for veterans. The Veterans Recruitment provided by the Department of Justice helps with recruiting, training, and increasing the promotion of employment opportunities for veterans. The DOJ Veterans Employment Program Office participates in hiring events and provides resume reviews and critiques about the events.

There is a single site for applying for government jobs in every branch. When registering at usajobs.gov, uploading a copy of the DD-214 or SF-15 may be needed to prove military status. An added benefit of public sector jobs is using the existing security clearance to find positions that might pay higher.

The following federal agencies have a track record of hiring the highest percentage of veterans among their new hires:

  • Department of Homeland Security
  • National Security Agency
  • Department of Defense
  • Veterans Administration
  • Department of the Interior
  • Department of State
  • Department of Agriculture
  • Department of Transportation
  • Social Security Administration

Private Sector Civilian Jobs

Several private sector companies are considered to be military-friendly employers. Many of these companies are government contractors. Some have veteran-specific career development paths.

When applying to a private sector company, be prepared for the interview by learning as much as possible about the company. An inevitable question during an interview is, “what do you know about our company?” Showing interest in the company’s background, products, services, statistics, and reputation can show those with hiring authority the seriousness taken for the interview.

Tools For A Successful Civilian Job Search

To have a successful job search, prepare by learning which jobs will be the best fit. The Department of Veteran Affairs has several resources available to make transitioning into the civilian workforce easier.

These benefits include:

  • Career counseling
  • Educational counseling
  • Counseling to help address any barriers encountered in the job search process and career transition
  • Support with goal planning
  • Resume preparation

Preparing for an Interview

After making initial contact with the company and setting up an interview, prepare for the interview by doing homework about the company in advance. Dress professionally for the interview, whether it is in-person or virtual.

When preparing for the interview, receive additional support from family if their involvement in the job process can be beneficial. Family support can make a difference in attitudes going into the interview.

When preparing to go for an in-person interview, be prepared with the following items:

  • Drivers license or Identification card
  • Social security card
  • Copies of the resume
  • Any written correspondence with the potential employer
  • Letters of reference
  • DD-214
  • College transcripts

Make sure to receive business cards from the interviewers. Take the time to send each interviewer a thank you card or express gratitude in an email after the interview.

In Closing

The transition from military service to a civilian career is not always easy. Many veterans can become easily frustrated and end up in positions for which they are overqualified. Taking the time to assess your skills and evaluate the value you can offer to a potential employer can make all the difference in your new career.

Veterans often struggle with mental health issues, and it can serve as a barrier to finding a civilian job. If you or a veteran you know are struggling with mental health disorders, reach out to Solara Mental Health today. Our team can answer any questions you may have and give you a better understanding of our program.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids & Military Suicide

Suicide rates among active military members and veterans post 9/11 have seen a dramatic increase. In fact, an estimated 30,177 active-duty personnel and veterans of the post 9/11 wars have died by suicide. The increase in these numbers among the military can be related to diet, trauma, and mental health disorders.

Diets of active-duty personnel can be limited based on location in the world and availability of nutritious foods. Foods that are rich in omega-3s may be hard to obtain and can lead to several issues affecting mental and physical health. Omega-3 fatty acids are vital to overall health and must be consumed regularly to receive benefits.

What are Omega-3 Fatty Acids?

Omega-3 fatty acids are known as essential fats that are needed for survival. Omega-3s provide a starting point for making hormones that regulate blood clotting, contraction and relaxation of artery walls, and inflammation. This essential fat is highly concentrated in the brain and can be important for cognitive and behavioral function

This fatty acid needs to be ingested through food or supplements because the body cannot produce omega-3s on its own. The recommended daily dose of omega-3 fatty acids for males is 1.6 grams, while for females 1.1 grams and a slight increase in pregnancy or lactation to 1.4 grams per day.

Types of Fatty Acids

The three main types of omega-3 fatty acids are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and α-Linolenic acid (ALA). ALA is mainly present in foods like green leafy vegetables, flax seeds, chia seeds, canola oil, walnut oil, and soybean oil. EPA and DHA types of omega-3s are most commonly found in foods like oily fish, krill oil, and algae oil.

ALA is the most common type of fatty acid and can be converted into EPA or DHA  to receive health benefits in the body. The conversion process can be ineffective and based on adequate levels of other nutrients. ALA is used for energy but is more useful in the body once it is converted into EPA or DHA.

Seafood & Omega-3s

Seafood provides a rich amount of DHA and EPA omega-3 fatty acids. Seafood can be used as an easy way to increase the DHA and EPA in the body. Fish or seafood can be eaten one to two times per week to raise EPA and DHA levels to a healthy level.

Most common seafood and omega-3 fatty acid content:

  • Salmon (farmed) – 4,504 mg/serving
  • Salmon (wild) – 1,774 mg/serving
  • Anchovy – 1,200 mg/serving
  • Swordfish – 868 mg/serving
  • Halibut – 740 mg/serving
  • Tuna (albacore) – 733 mg/serving
  • Mussels – 665 mg/serving

Benefits of Omega-3s

Omega-3 fatty acids can be beneficial to overall health and can help improve chronic condition symptoms. These fatty acids are essential for cell membranes and particularly for brain development.

Benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids include:

  • Improving heart health – raising HDL cholesterol, lowering LDL cholesterol, lowering triglycerides, and reducing blood pressure
  • Improving mental health – reducing symptoms of depression and can help with preventing major depressive disorder (MDD) in individuals
  • Reducing inflammation – specifically EPA and DHA can help reduce inflammatory responses in the body including reducing inflammation from diseases

Omega 3 Supplements

Omega-3 supplements are generally safe and produce mild if any side effects. Mild side effects of these supplements can include bad breath, unpleasant taste, headache, and gastrointestinal symptoms. Omega-3 supplements may react with medications that affect blood clotting.

Provide caution when taking fish oil supplements if an allergy to fish is present. Instead, there are other vegetarian supplements like algal oils and flaxseed oil that can be used for similar effects.

How Omega-3 Fatty Acids Can Help the Military

One study found that military servicemen and women who had low DHA in their blood increased their risk of committing suicide by 62% compared to those with high levels of DHA. Increases of EPA and DHA found a 45 % reduction in suicidal thinking and a 30% reduction in depression among patients with recurrent self-harm.

In addition to traditional treatments for suicidal ideation like psychotherapy or medication, sufficient amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce the risk of suicide. Low-cost dietary intervention techniques like meal planning or supplements can efficiently reverse low DHA complications.

Mediterranean diets can be linked to lower risks of depression and suicide. Mediterranean diets consist of low quantities of red meat and high quantities of omega-3 rich foods. Omega-3 rich foods that are often found in this diet include fish, seafood, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, and kale.

Treatment for Suicidal Ideation

Suicidal ideation risk increases among veterans due to mental illness and trauma. An insufficient amount of omega-3 fatty acids may cause an increased risk for suicide and suicidal ideation in the military. In addition to therapy or medication, consumption of omega-3s can reduce suicidal thinking and behaviors.

If you or a veteran you know are struggling with suicidal ideation, reach out to Solara Mental Health today. Our team can answer any questions you may have and give you a better understanding of our program.