Tips for Encouraging Your Loved One to Access Mental Health Services
It happens every year. We visit friends and family who we only see occasionally and are often surprised at their condition. For the family of a struggling veteran, this can be especially difficult if that veteran doesn’t want to seek treatment. Fortunately, there is a program specifically for those trying to help a veteran who won’t seek treatment. The program will “coach” you through working with your vet.
Family members are key resources for service members and veterans. They know when something is wrong and can encourage each other to seek help. Unfortunately, sometimes misunderstandings, disagreements and conflicts get in the way of helping. Here are some suggestions for working with your service member or veteran when you think he or she is troubled and experiencing depression, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or another mental health concern:
You can help by being informed about some of the following topics: PTSD, family reintegration, combat stresses, depression, alcohol and drug use. Try these resources for good information on these and other topics.
Talk about your concerns
Often the best thing for families is to talk openly about their thoughts, feelings and behaviors. This includes concerns you have about how the veteran is feeling or reacting to situations. However, it’s easy for your worries to come across as criticisms — this happens when we use the word “you,” as in, “You need to do something about your life.” Instead, express your support or concern. Try saying, “I know things are not going well right now, but know that I’d like to help.”
Recognize your service member or veteran’s choices
Mental health care is helpful only if your service member or veteran makes the decision to seek it by him or herself. Someone can accept making changes only when he or she truly feels there is a choice. Demanding someone seek help can backfire, making him or her less likely to go for help. Avoid making threats. Try not to say, “You need to go for help, or else.” Talk about choices. You can say, “I know it’s your call whether you go to see somebody, but if there’s something I can do to help, let me know.” Only the individual can make the choice and commitment to improve their lives, but your support can make this more likely.
Get help from others about talking with your loved one
If you’re having trouble talking to your service member about mental health concerns or just want to know about the right treatment resources, Military OneSource at 800-342-9647 can be a good start. For those family members concerned about a military veteran, you can contact Coaching Into Care at 888-823-7458. This program, provided by Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), helps family members assist their veteran in accessing health and mental health care. The telephone responders understand the enrollment procedures, what documents your veteran needs and what to do with them, as well as other VA resources that might be helpful. If you’re worried about your veteran and don’t seem to be able to find the right words to tell them, a coach can help you come up with the best approach.
Take care of yourself
Taking care of yourself is helpful in several ways: you have the most to give when you’re doing well, you make better decisions, and you provide a good example to your veteran in making good health decisions. Taking care of yourself can include getting enough sleep, eating well, getting help from friends, family or your church, or getting professional help from someone such as a counselor or therapist.
For more support resources, visit the resources section of the DCoE website and select the topic you’re interested in learning more about. And, remember the DCoE Outreach Center is available 24/7 at 866-966-1020 and[email protected] to provide information and resources on psychological health and traumatic brain injury issues.