Increasing mental illness among veterans

May 18, 2008 8:01:00 AM PDT
We often hear about veterans who sustained serious physical injuries while serving in the military. We rarely hear about those who are dealing with mental illness, which is on the rise.

Mental illness not only affects vets who have been deployed, it can also happens during training and after combat.

Vets with mental illness come to Thresholds' weekly peer support group According to vice president of external affairs Michael Pollock, the group is based on Thresholds' peer success empowerment model.

"So that vets could come to Thresholds and talk with other vets about the unique experience of not only have been over there at war but the impact that having mental illness having on their recovery now that they're back here in the Chicago area," said Pollock.

Every individual has their own story from war and mental illness. Greer Alford was in the Army reserve during the first Persian Gulf war.

"My job was to be a graphics documentation specialist," said Alford.

Alford experienced depression while serving in the war. Things got worse when she got home.

"My youngest brother got shot and killed and that's what started my psychosis because I didn't know how to operate," Alford said.

Nicholas Glovsky is 23 years old. He enlisted right out of high school. Two weeks before being deployed he was in a car accident.

"I survived and the military told me I couldn't serve anymore because I was very depressed, very suicidal, hearing things, seeing things, so I got out and hated being out ever since," Glovsky said.

Davino Rankin has schizoaffective disorder. He spent six years in the military, four of them in Iraq.

"I know I was going sick in my last two years in the military, and I didn't really know what it was, so I didn't really seek any help, so I wasn't diagnosed until afterwards," said Rankin.

It took a while for Navy veteran Greg Fayned to understand what was wrong. He was struggling with bipolar disorder while serving in the Navy. Based on his experiences with Thresholds, he started a vet to vet program at the VA hospital.

"I have to commend Thresholds, because they seem to be the only not-for-profit organization that is really knowledgeable about mental illness and deals with it from a recovery base standpoint, where they talk to you as if you are a person and not a mentally ill individual," said Fayned.

Although Thresholds' vet peer support group is helping those cope with mental illness, there is a need for more.

"The VA recognizes that there's a need to support vets that are coming back from the war. Congress recognized that there may not be enough services available for the number of vets coming back with mental illness," said Pollock.

"Unfortunately, a lot of veterans are living this life without any kind of assistance because they just don't know that it exists," said Alford.

Homelessness is another concerns. Forty-five percent of the vets with mental illness are homeless.

Weekly peer support group meets at Thresholds
(773) 271-7132
Thursdays at 1 p.m.
Lawrence House
1020 W. Lawrence

Vets for Vets
(708) 250-3461 - Clyde Wilson
Jesse Brown VA Medical Center
820 S. Damen


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