May is Mental Health Month
Family members and friends play a critical role in a Veteran’s life, especially during difficult times. Whatever issues you and your loved one may be dealing with, and however long they’ve been going on, you are not alone. Support is available every day to Veterans to help them connect with resources for managing life’s challenges and finding solutions that improve their lives.
Check out these four simple ways you can support a loved one’s mental health, benefit your community, or improve your own well-being.
1. Volunteer your time.
Volunteering not only has a lasting impact on those who you’re supporting, but also can provide a warm sense of fulfillment and purpose. Volunteer, join a club, or take up a hobby to share your strengths and wisdom with others. Set aside time throughout the month to focus on doing what you can to improve your community and support the people in your life. Every VA medical center has a local Voluntary Service office with information about volunteer programs and opportunities.
2. Talk positively about mental health.
The way you talk about mental health can shape how the people around you think about getting help. It’s important to focus on the positive outcomes of treatment, such as learning to manage PTSD symptoms, coping with anxiety, or overcoming depression.
In your conversations, you can reinforce the idea that mental health treatment works and recovery is possible. By highlighting the possibilities of mental health treatment, we can encourage others to seek help.
3. Get active.
You know your physical health improves from being more active, but you may not realize physical activity can also boost your mood and help you sleep better. Take a walk, jog, or go work out. Encourage a friend to go on a run with you, organize a group bike ride, or make a gym plan. Simple adjustments to your daily routine can go a long way to improve your mood and clear your mind.
4. Let someone know you’re there for them.
Seemingly small actions, like letting a Veteran know that you’re ready to talk when they are, can make a big impact. Let your loved one know the door is always open and you’re willing to listen without offering advice or suggestions. Even when Veterans are not ready to talk about what they’ve experienced, it helps them to know that their family members and friends are there for them when the time is right.
Resources for Family and Friends
Coaching Into Care – This VA program provides guidance for helping family members encourage their Veterans to get on a better track. Free, confidential assistance is available by calling 1-888-823-7458 or emailing CoachingIntoCare@va.gov. http://www.mirecc.va.gov/coaching/
VA Caregiver Support – The VA Caregiver Support Program offers training, educational resources, and a variety of tools to help you succeed. Call the Caregiver Support Line at 855–260–3274 for advice on being a caregiver. https://www.caregiver.va.gov/
National Center for PTSD: Help for Family and Friends – The National Center for PTSD provides information about the effects of Veterans’ trauma on their families, children, relationships, and communities, as well as resources and support to help Veterans and their family members and friends to respond and cope with those effects. https://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/family/resources_family_friends.asp