GUEST BLOG: MENTAL HEALTH AND THE ARMED FORCES

                                            Smoking Mirrors by Elijah K. Muhammad

Before the Covid19 Pandemic outbreak, there was a lot of talk about mental health, and a lot of websites, systems and programs being put in place in order to raise awareness, so that we may provide many options for people to receive treatment. There are many of us, who suffer from different symptoms of mental health, such as PTSD, depression, anxiety and chemical dependency to name a few, or maybe a combination of these symptoms listed. There are so many of us that are affected with these traits, whether it may be from childhood trauma, abusive relationships, physical or mental, or a Soldier returning home from a Combat Deployment.

            I wish to provide some enlightenment on a particular group, which is our Brothers and Sisters in arms, who have, or who still currently serve in our armed forces. Speaking from experience, I believe a lot of our Soldiers are dramatically affected by the events they witnessed or participated in during combat. However, I don’t totally agree with the fact, that combat is the only or main contributing factor leading to the cause of PTSD, anxiety, depression or chemical dependency. There are a plethora of contributing factors that often go unmentioned and addressed. Being a former combat veteran, we are briefed on potential domestic threats that we may encounter. Entailed in some of these briefings, are the intentions and actions of certain type of opportunist that are labeled card chasers. These are basically narcissists pursuing a relationship or courtship in order to obtain benefits, such as housing, medical/dental insurance or a potential portion of a Soldier’s pay or pension. Nothing is more important to a Soldier than family, which is the reason they make the sacrifice of putting their life on the line, in order to be a provider. Before you deploy, you are required to get your house in order by filling out your will and deciding how you want your life insurance policy distributed, in case you were not able to return home. Last but not least, you must provide instructions on how you want your physical remains handled.

            After this process, you say goodbye to your family and then deploy. During this deployment, a Soldier will face a lot of adversity and overwhelming odds of survival. Please understand that family is the motivation and inspiration along with the lives of the men and women next to them to make it back home. Unfortunately, when we return home as veterans,we’re all injured in a sense, whether it be mentally or physically, in some cases a combination of both. When some of these Soldiers return home, they return home to an empty house, depleted bank accounts, because their spouses abandoned them, leaving heartbroken, poor and destitute. Another group of veterans may be physically unable to continue their military career, because of injuries suffered during the combat deployment. This forces them to leave the military but may not receive their benefits immediately or total benefits. These two scenarios cause the suicide rate to increase, and cause veterans to totally give up on life, which is why in most cases you see so many homeless veterans. Their thought process is, why should I want to even continue living? I sacrificed everything of me for my family and my country, just to have one, if not the two of them turn their backs on me.

            I loved my time in the military, but everyone is not capable of staying afloat mentally, even I at one point in time, had to consult with a therapist. This is not a race or gender issue; this is a humanity issue. I personally believe we need to raise awareness of these undiscussed triggers that veterans constantly face, that causes PTSD, anxiety, depression, chemical dependency and even suicide. By raising the conscious level of these traits, we can decrease the numbers of Soldiers encountering these mental issues possibly reducing the rate of suicides.

Thank you for your time. My appreciation and regards to the host of this platform Cherie Johnson for allowing me to lend my voice.

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