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Don't forget the veterans who made it home but suffer unseen wounds

Guest Editorial
Veronica Raussin

Memorial Day is a time to honor the memory of men and women who lost their lives while serving in the U.S. military.
But we must also never forget the veterans who made it home but are struggling with addiction and mental health issues and suicide thoughts.
Early intervention and prevention is critical to help veterans find the treatment they need.
More than 300,000 veterans live in Minnesota, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and 16 percent of them have served since Sept. 11, 2001.
“There are many reasons veterans become addicted to drugs or alcohol, but addiction and mental health issues are treatable,” said Michael Leach of
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, over 3.9 million veterans have substance use disorders or mental illness.
Substance abuse significantly increases suicidality among veterans ages 18 and older and remains problematic among veterans ages 18 to 49.
Many veterans struggle with adjusting to civilian life and face financial hardships, difficulty finding employment and accessing benefits.
They’re at a higher risk of compromised mental and emotional health, often due to untreated trauma, and they tend to lean on alcohol and drugs for coping.
Veterans also experience significant barriers to care with insurance gaps, inadequate funding and limited treatment access in rural locations. Stigma regarding mental health and substance use is still an issue.
Outside of the usual VA-Facility locator offered by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, there are other options to consider.
For example, the VA has extensive resources and support for veterans and their families.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration provides a treatment facility locator where veterans can find specific options for substance use and mental health treatment.
And helpful phone numbers include the Veterans Crisis Line, 1-800-273-8255, and the Lifeline for Vets, 1-888-777-4443.
Drug and alcohol treatment facilities are increasingly better equipped to treat veterans by offering specific rehabilitation options and treatment for co-occurring disorders.
Families play a significant role in supporting veterans through difficult times. Speak to them openly and honestly about their substance use, and express concern without casting judgment. Help them find treatment.
Be patient and show compassion for what they are going through. Substance use and mental health disorders are treatable.
It takes communities and families coming together to help veterans who are struggling. Too many battle these issues in silence and never get their needed help.
Early intervention and prevention save lives, and providing quick and easy access to treatment and support is critical for veterans struggling with addiction.
— Veronica Raussin is a community outreach coordinator for

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