Meet Team HVAF: Mental Health Clinician/Therapist KaschaMay 1, 2023
HVAF’s Peer Mentor has helped Army veteran achieve sobrietyMay 26, 2023
May is Mental Health Awareness month. I want to spend a little time sharing sobering statistics about the state of our mental health, focusing in particular on the veterans we serve. I also want to say there is hope and there is help, so if you are experiencing a mental health crisis, please reach out.
According to a poll conducted by CNN and the Kaiser Family Foundation in October 2022, 90% of Americans believe we are experiencing a mental health crisis. 20% of respondents described their own mental health as fair or poor. A third of those polled reported feeling anxious constantly or often in the previous year and 20% reported feeling constantly depressed or lonely. If any of this sounds familiar, please know you are not alone.
Like everything else, the COVID-19 pandemic negatively impacted mental health worldwide. In April 2021, the National Institute of Mental Health reported that rates for anxiety, depression, stress, substance use, and suicidal thoughts doubled over the course of the pandemic.
In fact, the Veterans Crisis Line managed by the Department of Veterans Affairs reported a record number of calls in March 2023. The suicide hotline received over 88,000 calls, texts, and chats seeking assistance—that’s almost 3,000 calls every day!
Closer to home, the situation is worse. The Indiana Veteran Suicide Data Sheet published by the VA in 2022 reflects that in 2020, 150 Hoosier veterans committed suicide. This is “significantly higher” than the national veteran suicide rate and the national general population suicide rate. The same report reflected that suicide is the 13th leading cause of death among all veterans, and the second leading cause of death among veterans under the age of 45.
At HVAF, 71% of veterans served in 2022 reported a mental health diagnosis or substance use issues. So far this year, 77% of veterans served reported the same. The most frequent mental health issues reported are depression, anxiety, trauma, and substance use disorder.
We know that addressing mental health issues is paramount to helping veterans maintain housing and employment. We are seeking to remove barriers to treatment, so we have added a full-time therapist to our team, dedicated to providing intensive mental health support to the most vulnerable veterans we serve. You will read more about Kascha and the important work she is doing this month.
Recognizing that we are in a mental health crisis, we have included expanding mental health services are part of our 3-year strategic plan. Over the course of the next 12 months, HVAF will be evaluating our existing therapy program and determining the need for expanded services within our current service area. Early data supports the need for additional licensed mental health professionals to meet the needs of the veterans we serve.
There is also movement at the state and federal level to improve mental health care options. This year, the VA announced a new initiative to address veteran suicide, authorizing 30 days of inpatient care and 90 days of outpatient care for veterans experiencing suicidal thoughts or behavior, regardless of their enrollment in VA health services.
Governor Holcomb included reducing veteran suicide and increasing access to mental health care as part of his State of the State Address this year and the Indiana General Assembly just passed legislation creating a mental health hotline to provide confidential support and connections to behavior health resources for Hoosiers in crisis.
It will take all of us working together to address the challenging circumstances we are in now. We are grateful for your support as we seek to care for Hoosier veterans.
If you are in a crisis, please call 9-8-8 and press 1 or text 838255.