Below is a message from HVAF’s Chief Operating Officer: Bryan Dysert, LCSW
How are you feeling today?
Okay, let me ask again, and this time be completely honest with yourself… How are you really feeling today? Chances are, for most of us, if we truly and honestly answer that question, we answer it by reporting on our feelings. We might say that we are feeling happy today and full of life and energy. We might say that we are really struggling with feelings of sadness or grief or anxiety and are having a hard time coping with it. However you answered that question, my hope is that it at least got you thinking about your feelings and created some space for you to be honest with the emotions you are presently feeling. So now it’s time for you to ask me a question, that question being “Why are you making me talk about my feelings?!”
I’m glad you asked! The month of May is Mental Health Awareness Month and affords us the opportunity to increase awareness of the importance of mental health and wellness. It also allows us to celebrate those who have recovered from mental illness and continue our work on reducing any stigma that people might experience. Regardless of how you answered my question a couple minutes ago, whatever feelings you experienced were completely normal! To take it a step further, the feelings (which are the conscious experiences of emotional reactions) you expressed when I asked have now proven that you possess the cognitive ability to interpret emotions! So why is all of this important you ask? It is important because mental illnesses are brain-based conditions that affect our thinking, our emotions, and even our behaviors. However, for those who struggle with mental illness, their brains have changed in a way in which they are unable to think, feel, or act in ways in which they want.
One of the prevailing sentiments in our society is that mental illness is something that “other people” deal with. And to be honest, I truly do hope you aren’t struggling with mental illness and that you and your family are healthy in mind, body, and spirit! That said, mental illness is fairly common and widespread with almost 20% of adults experiencing a severe mental illness right now. For veterans, the prevalence is even higher with approximately 25% of veterans experiencing a mental health condition. From anxiety or depression to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or Traumatic Brain Injury, veterans face a wide array of mental health issues. Some of these illnesses are a direct result of their military service, while others have surfaced before or after their time in the military. At HVAF of Indiana, we see a myriad of veterans who need our help, some of whom are currently struggling with mental health issues. Regardless of whether a veteran has never experienced a mental illness, is currently experiencing one, or is in recovery from mental illness, we help them return to self-sufficiency and provide them with the services and resources they need to be successful in their journey. We have an amazing team here at HVAF, some of whom are licensed and/or credentialed to be able to provide clinical and therapeutic services. For those of us who are licensed, we consider it an honor to be able to serve and assist those in need, especially when it comes to tackling mental health issues.
Despite the work that has been done over the years, and the slowly shifting tide of public opinion, there is still an element of shame expressed by society for individuals with mental illness. This. Must. Stop. The fact that any type of negative stigma still centers around mental health is infuriating, even if it is the reality in which we still currently live. However, HVAF is working to kick this stigma and is the proud recipient of some recent funding from the Indianapolis Colts and their Kicking the Stigma initiative. This initiative put forth by the Irsay Family in 2021 is to raise awareness about mental health disorders and to remove the stigma associated with them. With the funding that HVAF received through this initiative, we have been able to provide dedicated therapy services to veterans experiencing mental health issues and work to expand mental health services.
Now that the calendar has turned to May, we get a dedicated month to celebrate those who have recovered from mental illness and raise awareness that mental health is a part of so many of our lives. There is no shame in this! Persons with mental health concerns are strong individuals who can overcome many barriers. If you are a veteran, or know a veteran, who needs help, please contact HVAF. If you or someone you know is struggling with a mental health crisis and needs someone to talk to, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255). There is help and there is hope! HVAF of Indiana’s vision is hope, housing, and self-sufficiency for all veterans and their families. So now that we’ve kicked the stigma, created space for honesty and transparency, and normalized the issues of mental health, allow me to ask… How are you feeling today?