Veteran Mental Health and Resilience Resources
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an experience of unfamiliar stress for many people. The ever-evolving social distancing, quarantine, and personal protective equipment guidelines have added additional stressors to those we have already been dealing with.
What is Resilience?
Resilience is a tool that helps protect mental health and is extremely important among service members, veterans, and their family members. In uncertain times like these, it is an increasingly important concept to understand.
According to the American Psychological Association, resilience is “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress.” Everyone experiences it – from the mundane everyday stress to traumatic and life-altering events. Resilience is how we “bounce back” from stressors. Important points about stress and resilience:
- Everyone experiences stress
- The way that stress affects us is related to how we manage it
- Some people tend to be more resilient than others
- Resilience involves gaining control over aspects of life that can be controlled
- Anyone can learn resiliency skills
- Resilience has an inverse relationship with stress
How to Build Resilience During a Pandemic
Surround yourself with a supportive network of people. Social distancing and quarantine can feel isolating. Call someone on the phone or take advantage of free videoconferencing apps – like Zoom, MarcoPolo, FaceTime, or Google Hangouts – to connect with others.
Practice Wellness and Self-care Strategies
Focus on managing stress in positive ways. Developing a routine that includes healthy habits like exercise, sleep, and a healthy diet is one positive way to manage stress. Others include journaling or practicing relaxation techniques like yoga or meditation.
Practice Healthy Thinking
Practice healthy thoughts by practicing positive and realistic thinking patterns, working to accept change, and having an optimistic outlook. Limiting media exposure and choosing reputable sources for information can help improve optimism.
When Stress is Overwhelming
There are times when building resilience requires the support of trained professionals. When you aren’t feeling resilient and stresses in your life are overwhelming it is always appropriate to seek support.
Keep any existing mental health appointments you may currently have scheduled. Contact your healthcare provider to learn about changing to a telemedicine appointment.
In addition to contacting your healthcare provider, you can take the Veterans Self-Check Quiz to learn how stress might be affecting you.
The following is a list of VA and TRICARE benefits and changes related to mental wellness during COVID-19.
TRICARE Mental Health Care Via Telemedicine
Due to the current pandemic, TRICARE has expanded telemedicine for mental health care to include:
- Telemental health services
- Medication assisted treatment
- Opioid treatment programs
- Intensive outpatient programs
Resources from the VA
Over 3 billion dollars of emergency funding has been set aside to increase health care access through new telemedicine efforts through the VA. The VA has seen significant increases in the use of mental health services via telemedicine over the past months.
The VA recommends that veterans keep any existing mental health appointments. These appointments may be changed to telehealth appointments through My HealtheVet.
The VA offers several apps that support mental health. Some of the most popular include:
- COVID Coach supports self-care and overall mental health during the coronavirus pandemic.
- PTSD Coach provides info, support, and tools needed to manage PTSD.
- Mindfulness Coach teaches mindfulness as a stress-reduction tool.
- PTSD Family Coach provides support for those living with someone who has PTSD.
The Circle of Health
The VA describes the big picture concept of health and wellness involving the relationship between aspects of your life and your well-being. It has four components:
- You and your unique experiences are at the center
- Immediately surrounding you in the center are Self Care actions that you can do to improve your own wellness
- Beyond that is the Professional Care received from healthcare providers in the form of prevention and treatment
- Surrounding all of these components is your Community – the people and groups that you are connected to
Closely related to the nine aspects of self-care described in the Circle of Health model, the VA offers Live Whole Health videos that align with the self-care strategies described in the Circle of Health model. Among these episodes are:
- Breathing practices
- Mobility exercises
- Muscle Relaxation
- Tai Chi
- Music Therapy
Resilience and mental health are important aspects of overall health and wellness – and they are even more important during the coronavirus pandemic. Pay attention to how you react to stressors and take advantage of the resources available to you to improve your mental health and resilience.
- Telemedicine Benefits for Military and Veterans
- Organizations that Help Military Kids and Families
- Suicide Prevention Resources for Military and Veterans
- COVID-19 Could be Affecting Military and Veterans’ Ability to Pay for Healthcare
- PTSD Awareness Day is June 27th
- VA Aid for Homeless During COVID-19
- What Veterans Need to Know About COVID-19
- Where To Find Service Dogs For Veterans
About the author
Chelsea Bostelman is a registered nurse who stays busy with freelance writing, exploring Europe, and working on a graduate degree in nursing. She founded the Stuttgart Nurse Journal Club to provide underemployed nurses with free continuing education opportunities. A 10-year military spouse, she and her family spend their free time hiking, biking, and eating in southern Germany.