Public Grossly Overestimates Propensity for Veterans to Experience Mental Health Issues

The misperception held by a significant portion of the public that more than half of veterans who have served since 9/11 suffer from mental health problems is hampering veterans’ prospects of successfully transitioning into civilian life, according to veterans advocates.

A study conducted by the George W. Bush Institute’s Military Service Initiative revealed that about 40 percent of 1,000 adults surveyed believe more than half of the 2.8 million veterans who have served since 2001 have a mental health condition. The actual figure lies somewhere between 10 percent and 20 percent, according to a Rand Corp. estimate, reported Military Times.

The survey also found that 80 percent of veterans say embarrassment or shame is a barrier to seeking treatment for traumatic brain injury or combat-related mental health conditions. A similar portion said that concerns about future employment prevented them from seeking treatment for those conditions, according to the story.

“The unfortunate result is that less than half of veterans who experience these invisible wounds of war are seeking care,” Miguel Howe, director of the Military Service Initiative, said following a Washington forum earlier this month on veterans’ transition. The Bush Institute hosted the event along with the Edelman marketing firm and Give an Hour.

“This is about what we need to do to change and address perceptions because they are getting in the way of the veterans getting the mental health care they need and relationships with the veterans we employ,” said Barbara Van Dahlen, founder of Give an Hour, a nonprofit that provides free mental health counseling to service members, veterans and family members.

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