In the past few days there have been several stories in The Blade about the U.S. military's high suicide rate, high occurrences of post-traumatic stress disorder, and lack of qualified mental health professionals within the Veterans Administration to help with the ever-increasing number of veterans needing mental- health care.
I find it quite ironic that, given these reports, licensed mental- health counselors such as myself are being virtually shut out of the VA health-care system. The majority of "counseling" positions within the VA are open only to social workers. Indeed, I am not even allowed to apply for "counseling" jobs because I am not a social worker. Recently I offered my services to the VA on a volunteer basis and I was denied the ability to even volunteer to help my fellow veterans.
While we hear that the VA is doing all it can for our veterans, it is in reality actively and purposely keeping well-qualified mental-health counselors from providing desperately needed services to our brave veterans. How, I ask, is this doing everything they can for our veterans?
This has to stop, and the VA needs to be forced to open up its recruiting and hiring practices equally to all qualified mental-health professionals. If you want to do something for our troops, call your congressman and senator and demand that our troops be given the best care possible by allowing all appropriately trained mental-health professionals equal access to VA employment. Our service members deserve the best mental-health care they can get and by all accounts they are not getting it.
It has been discouraging to read, hear, and watch stories about the inadequate treatment of our veterans' mental-health issues and needs after returning from their service for our country. Regardless of how we feel about war, it is sad that we are in such a crisis in trying to treat and support soldiers who may be experiencing conditions such as depression, anxiety, and post traumatic stress disorder.
The donation of time and expertise by mental-health professionals is wonderful but mental health seems to be an issue that many times is not adequately funded. We also need to beef up support to the families of these soldiers. Everyone is affected.
The irony in Toledo is that a very effective not-for-profit organization that can provide such support to families had to layoff three employees because of financial difficulties. The National Alliance on Mental Illness of Greater Toledo provides educational programs and support to families like mine. I hope that someone will step up and do the right thing to make sure agencies like NAMI are able to be there for families.
Let's find a way before it's too late to do the right thing for soldiers and their families as well as countless others who need help.
The end of an "error": Jan. 20, 2009.