October 13th, 2020
As a soldier who had the honor of serving his country, I know that some war wounds are not as visible as others. The mental anguish many veterans suffer is not as readily diagnosed and effectively treated as physical wounds that leave scars. Nevertheless, they can be just as lasting.
Veterans can miss out on getting mental health treatment out of fear of being stigmatized or simply not knowing who to turn to. Studies have shown that around 20 percentof veterans who served in operations in Iraq now suffer from PTSD, a condition exacerbated today by the challenges presented by a global pandemic, with a 20 percent spike in military suicides in 2020 alone. Further, a 2016 study published in the American Journal of Public Health shows over 1.1 million veterans treated in the VA between 2010 and 2011 were diagnosed with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, substance abuse disorder, or schizophrenia.
The anguish of these struggles is felt in many ways. A veteran suffering from mental health issues has a higher chance of becoming homeless, and of being unemployed. The anxiety of not knowing when the next paycheck will come can serve to further exacerbate the mental health issues a person might be facing. We can—and must—do more to help.
We can begin by destigmatizing mental illness and making resources available to our veterans and their families. Alongside a community of veterans, Google has launched a new veterans’ wellness website, Serving Veterans. This new hub will provide up-to-date, authoritative information about the mental health issues uniquely experienced by our veterans—which we hope will lessen the stigma and isolation associated with so many of these diagnoses.
There are many organizational and logistical barriers to care but we want veterans to know that it is honorable and expected to receive help. That’s why this new hub combines destigmatizing messaging from a diverse chorus of military leaders reiterating the importance of seeking help—alongside mental health resources, including online and local support from helpful nonprofit organizations dedicated to helping veterans and their families. The hope is that increasing the visibility and availability of these resources will reduce the barriers to access for the people seeking them.
This issue won’t be easy to solve. Moving forward, we hope that more tools like this become available. And we hope that by combining the tools and skills of the private sector with the resources of government and veterans’ own unique perspectives, we can find even greater solutions.