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The National Desk: Holidays can bring unique mental health challenges for veterans

Updated: Jan 18, 2023


This article originally appeared on The National Desk


(TND) — The holidays can be stressful for everyone, but veterans can face unique mental health challenges.

The Department of Veterans Affairs this week put out information for veterans to better manage their holiday stress.

“Specifically for Veterans, the holidays can enhance difficulties adjusting to civilian life, exacerbate posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms, put a focus on certain dates or anniversaries, and induce guilt,” reads the VA’s release.

Cole Lyle, a former Marine and the executive director of advocacy group Mission Roll Call, said survivor’s guilt and heightened issues with PTSD can make the holidays an isolating time for some veterans.

“It can certainly be survivor’s guilt that plays into it when you're surrounded by family and friends, and you remember that you have the ability to do that, and some of your friends that you served with are no longer here to celebrate with their families,” Lyle said. “That can certainly play into it.”


A Mission Roll Call poll found 43% of veterans experience a noticeable increase in mental health challenges during the holiday season.


One of Mission Roll Call’s top priorities is preventing veteran suicides.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it’s a myth that suicides spike during the holidays. But suicide is still a major concern, claiming about 47,000 American lives last year.


And suicide affects veterans at a higher rate than the general population.


Lyle said veterans who are struggling might not want to burden their friends or family.

“It's certainly something that I've felt before during the holiday season, but you know, those people would much rather take the time to talk to you and help you work through your issues than get a devastating phone call that you're no longer here,” he said.


There are resources, and people who care and want to help.

The VA says veterans can take a confidential risk assessment to see if stress and depression are affecting them.


The Veterans Crisis Line is available 24/7. That, too, can be confidential.


And you don’t need to be enrolled in VA benefits or health care to connect.


Dial 988, then press 1, chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat, or text 838255.


“You owe it to yourself,” Lyle said. “You owe it particularly to your future self.”

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