Mental Illness in the Military

First and foremost, we would like to thank all veterans and active-duty personnel for your military service. We are proud to serve you and/or your loved ones! Please know, you are in a safe and confidential space and we are here to help get you through this tough time. Further, YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

Did you know? 1 in 5 U.S. adults experiences a mental illness and 1 in 25 U.S. adults experience a serious mental illness. But, nearly 1 in 4 active duty members showed signs of a mental health condition according to a 2014 study in JAMA Psychiatry

Common military mental illnesses:

  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Borderline Personality Disorder
  • Depression
  • Dual Diagnosis
  • Mood Disorders
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
  • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
  • Schizophrenia
  • Substance Use Disorders

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Traumatic events such as military combat, assault, natural disasters and sexual assault can cause PTSD. However, the risk is 15 times higher for military members than civilians.

These traumas have physiological and psychological responses that can have long-lasting negative effects. To name a few, trouble sleeping, anger management issues, nightmares, jumpiness and alcohol/drug abuse.

If these types of troubles are present and lasting, it could be PTSD. We encourage you to consult with a mental health professional to get a diagnosis. PTSD and other mental health illnesses are treatable!


Seeking Help Outside of NAMI

From our national NAMI organization, “Military records show that talking to a doctor is a good career move. According to a 2006 study in Military Medicine, 97% of personnel who sought mental health treatment did not experience any negative career impact. The same study showed that it’s risky to ignore a mental health condition. If it worsens, a commanding officer can require a mental health evaluation, which is much more damaging to your career. Among people who had command-directed evaluations, 39% had a negative career impact.”

Here are a few resources for you to turn to:

  • Confidential counselors are available for service members and their families through Military One Source (a free service provided by the Department of Defense (DOD)) at 1-800-342-9647. If you’re unsure whether to seek treatment or if your or someone you know might need treatment, they are an excellent first stop for information and advice.
  • Primary care providers can be helpful for discussing concerns and treatment options.
  • Behavioral health care providers working at primary care clinics are available on many military bases so you can seek a specialist’s advice without leaving the base. And at some bases, you can find convenient Embedded Behavioral Health teams — clinics separate from traditional medical facilities.

NAMI’s Military Support Group (NAMI Homefront)

While NAMI cannot treat mental illness, we can offer help and hope. Our military mental illness education is designed specifically for active duty and veteran service member families (a.k.a. military families) to have a community. We understand that your loved one’s behavioral health is your priority.

We work with the Veterans Administration and the Rock Island Arsenal to cooperatively offer this 6-session program. There is no cost to family members and caregivers of an adult loved one living with PTSD, traumatic brain injury or other mental health problems.

NAMI Homefront is available as an online course to ensure social distancing. Please see the Events page for more information on upcoming courses. All of our programs judgment-free, confidential and safe zones.

NAMI Homefront was originally developed with the help of the United States Army. It is led by trained military/veteran family members of loved ones living with mental health conditions.

Some of the topics covered are:

  • Mental health diagnoses (such as PTSD and TBI from the above list)
  • Treatment options
  • Crisis management
  • Communication skills
  • The impact of combat stress and moral injury
  • The stigma associated with seeking mental health treatment while serving
  • Services available to both active-duty personnel and veterans

NAMI Homefront teaches you how to:

  • Manage crises, solve problems, and communicate effectively
  • Learn to care for yourself, including managing your stress
  • Develop the confidence and stamina to support your family member with compassion
  • Identify and access federal, state, and local services
  • Stay informed on the latest research and information on mental health, including Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and substance abuse
  • Understand current treatments, including proven education therapies with mental health professionals, medications, and side effects
  • Navigate the challenges and impact of mental health conditions on the entire family

NAMI Greater Mississippi Valley

Whether it is your time served in the military or your transition to civilian life, NAMI Greater Mississippi Valley is here to help. We are the local chapter of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), a grassroots organization dedicated to educating everyone – from young people to mature adults – that mental health conditions are treatable, and recovery is possible. The earlier they are detected, the better. Early detection, treatment and recovery aren’t just for cancer patients. They are for us, too.

NOTE: Should you or your active duty loved one need to disclose any mental health concerns while serving, the Department of Defense follows the privacy guidelines set down by HIPAA and the Privacy Act. For veterans and their families, contact Military OneSource at 1-800-342-9647. If you are (or a loved one is) having thoughts of suicide, please dial 911 or try the Veterans Crisis Line 24/7 by dialing 1-800-273-8255 and pressing 1.