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The Wounds We Don’t See: Veterans and Mental Health

Every day, we lose 20 veterans to suicide1. Every day, 50,000 military veterans are wondering where their next hot meal will come from and if they'll have a dry place to sleep2. These are sobering statistics. But there is hope. Because every day, people like Pattrick Jansens are devoting themselves to fighting for those who fought for us.

For Pattrick, Program Director at the Barry County United Way in Hastings, MI, it’s personal. In addition to his experience as a first responder with a long family history of military service, Pattrick has seen first-hand the challenges our veterans face when they return home from service. “A friend of mine from high school served two tours in Iraq. When he came back things did not go well for him.” Like many veterans, Zach found it challenging to pick back up the life he once had, and began using alcohol to cope. Although he had a support system, Zach still became homeless, spending nights on the street or in tent cities or in jail.

Many of our veterans come home with wounds we can’t see. Veterans are more likely to suffer from mental health disorders, substance abuse, post-traumatic stress disorders and traumatic brain injury (TBI)3. When left untreated, these mental health issues can cause people to lose family, friends, their job, and their home. For many veterans like Zach, the problem is not the lack of services, but a lack of coordination between those services.

That’s why United Way created MISSION UNITED to connect veterans and their families with the services they need – from securing a roof over their heads, to finding a stable job, to coordinating the health and treatment they need through VA services and community programs. MISSION UNITED provides a straightforward entry point, a dedicated and well-equipped case manager, and a team of service providers committed to meeting all of a veteran’s needs.

Through the coordinated efforts of his family, friends and United Way, Zach was able to get the help he desperately needed. Just recently, Zach celebrated his first year sober in many years, completed his first year of college, and started his own program to help other veterans find sobriety through exercise.

After several years of serving veterans in the community, Barry County United Way became the 18th community to join MISSION UNITED and the first in Michigan furthering our efforts to reach more veterans, like Zach. But we can’t do it alone. This Giving Tuesday, please consider a donation to MISSION UNITED to ensure our veterans no longer fall through the cracks.

1U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2016). Retrieved from https://va.gov/opa/publications/factsheets/Suicide_Prevention_FactSheet_New_VA_Stats_070616_1400.pdf

2National Alliance to End Homelessness. (2015). Retrieved from http://www.endhomelessness.org/library/entry/fact-sheet-veteran-homelessness

3Olenick, M., Flowers, M., Diaz, V. (2015) US veterans and their unique issues: enhancing health care professional awareness. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4671760/

With your support we can expand MISSION UNITED to other communities across the U.S. where veterans still lack access to essential services.