Mental health resources for veterans to become more accessible

Posted at 4:13 PM, Jan 24, 2023

TEMPLE, Texas — Jessica Behne is a marine veteran.

She told 25 News she loved her 12 years in the service and all the connections she made during that time.

"I love the Marine Corps. It was my passion," she said. "I love the camaraderie, the environment, all the relationships you build."

When she got out, she noticed something was missing, specifically when it comes to mental health.

"When I got out, the transition was quite challenging," Behne said. "I had a lot of family and friend support, but I couldn't find a therapist that had any kind of background I could relate to or they could relate to me."

She said it was important for her to find another veteran to talk to but was having trouble finding one.

"I found it to be really challenging," Behne said of her experience. "There was a lot of questions about acronyms and language I used."

She found a gap in the transition to civilian life and decided to fill it. Behne now is a licensed therapist who owns Breakthrough Therapy Texas.

"Being able to find a therapist who knows where I'm coming from was really important to me," she said. "I like to be able to offer that to veterans just because of the unique circumstances we go through in the military and then when you come out, it's just hard to relate if you've never done it."

Many of the patients Behne meets with are dealing with complex trauma. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, depression and PTSD are also among the most common mental health concerns for veterans. They estimate about 15 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have been diagnosed with PTSD.

They are also at a higher risk for addiction with roughly 20 percent believed to turn to drugs and alcohol within the first three months of returning home.

The Department of Veteran Affairs is hoping to make resources more available for people struggling with their mental health.

"Really it's more about just education and more access to veterans, specifically when it comes to suicide prevention and veterans in crisis," Johnathan Elliott from the Olin Teague VA Hospital in Temple said.

Starting in January, veterans will have access to free emergency mental health care at any VA hospital or clinic.

"A lot of times community hospitals, there were questions and different things along those lines," Elliott explained. "Now it's really just getting them in, assessed and able to move forward or at least on the right track."

The department estimates of the roughly 18 million veterans living in America only half are enrolled in their benefits. This new policy will cover all veterans, even those who aren't enrolled.

"We're offering education, resources, and tools for veterans to take back control whether its depression, anxiety, PTSD taking control of their lives, really just giving them the resources to be able to move forward," Elliott said.

Moving forward can be difficult when you're struggling with your mental health, but there are resources to help both at the VA and with veteran therapists like Behne.

"No veteran is too far gone, no veteran is broken by any means," Behne said. "We are warriors, we are trained as warriors, we will remain warriors, but we're injured. Sometimes those injuries just need to be treated."

If you're a veteran suffering with your mental health, you can text or call the new Suicide Prevention Hotline at 988 and press one.