According to the signature study, Invisible Wounds of War by the RAND Corporation, upwards of 30% of returning veterans have symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and only half of them seek treatment for these symptoms. A more alarming statistic indicates more veterans have committed suicide than have died in combat from the current conflicts.
Many veterans will not access mental health services through the VA health system for fear of being labeled or jeopardizing future opportunities. Stigma is a profound barrier to treatment as is an existing mental health workforce ill-prepared to support the needs of this population. Old methods of outreach have proven to be ineffective, begging for new paradigms in service delivery.
Development of best practices will require a comprehensive model of care that includes stigma reduction, patient navigation support, social services (including housing, food, and employment), family counseling and education and essentially a “no wrong door” approach to accessing mental health services. The veterans program is piloting and evaluating a variety of innovative approaches toward the goal of greater access to quality mental health services for returning veterans.