Holiday Depression Can Be Worse for Vets
December 7, 2011
Filed under Veteran Women
Are you one of many who get depressed at the nearing of the holidays? The stress and pressure experienced during the so-called “most wonderful time of the year” can be difficult, and for many of our veterans it is not a time of cheer. Many of our service personnel are hit hard by holiday depression, especially women.
Because of unique environmental issues and life experiences, the female veteran population faces increased mental and health-care challenges as compared to other women. These conditions which may include Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), physical and/or mental disability, chronic pain, chemical exposure, and stress tend to lead to increased depression in many of our veterans. This is a scenario which is not easily negotiated, and many develop major depressive disorders which significantly interfere with daily life.
Circumstances like this make the holidays even more difficult to get through, especially when societal norms dictate it is a “time to be jolly”. Thanksgiving, Christmas and the string of holiday festivities cause the burdens of those just “trying to get through it” to weigh even heavier.
The most recent US Census Bureau statistics recorded 197,900 women serving on active duty, and 1.5 million women veterans in the US. Even a small percentage of this number puts a lot of women among us that may be struggling with higher than normal levels of depression.
What can you do for a veteran? Show genuine care and concern. Don’t be eager to query them on “war stories”, because for many that’s exactly what they are. Recognize some experiences were not gained under the best conditions, and people may not want to share. In fact, for many “re-living” or recalling the experience is another form of trauma which makes their depression worse.
Instead, ask how they’re feeling, if there is anything you can do for them, or if there is anything they need. Let them be forthcoming with whatever information they may want to share.
Invite them to share a meal, especially on the holiday. What better way to cure loneliness and put a smile on someone’s face than a great meal, AND people to share it with? If an invitation is not possible, consider delivering a home-prepared meal to a vet you know. If you don’t know any vets, but would like to find them, ask at your local church, in your neighborhood, or call your local veterans organization or vet center.
What can you do if you’re a veteran? Get out of the house, exercise and socialize. Become active in clubs that interest you, many of which can be found on-line for your local area.
I understand it can be very difficult to force yourself to seek out activities or mingle when you may be feeling low, but research shows activity helps improve most depressive states. So, I hope you will try.
More importantly if you are depressed, lonely, or have thoughts of suicide seek medical attention immediately. In fact, you are encouraged to see a medical professional as soon as possible regarding any health concerns. The Veterans Administration (VA) is making strides in understanding the effects of military service on veterans, and has established a women’s health perspective when treating patients. Most VA facilities also have ‘’women’s health centers” to address a wide spectrum of medical issues affecting female vets.
Listed are some local facilities to gain information, and determine eligibility for VA medical treatment:
Washington DC VA Medical Center – www.washingtondc.va.gov
24 Hour Medical Advice Line: 202-745-8247 or 8577
24 Hour VA National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 800-273-8255
Patient Advocate (Mon-Fri 8:00 am – 4:30 pm): 202-745-8588
Baltimore VA Medical Center – www.maryland.va.gov
410-605-7000 or 800-463-6295
Perry Point VA Medical Center
410-642-2411 or 800-949-1003
To all you ladies and fellow veterans I wish you a happy and fulfilling holiday season. Depression is treatable. Please don’t let it rob you of the joy of life.