Mental HealthHolistic Ways To Improve the Quality of Life for Veterans Living with Trauma

By Sara Johnson – CEO of Mission 22

Symptoms of trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are common among veterans, with a reported 7 out of every 10 military vets experiencing some level of trauma-borne symptoms. Many veterans may struggle to heal and improve their post-service lives in the face of trauma-inducing past experiences.

Our organization, Mission 22, has found hopeful success within a more holistic approach to easing the symptoms of trauma and PTSD. Through a comprehensive approach to healing that considers the mind, body, spirit, lifestyle, and family support of the veteran, more veterans have been able to move forward in healthier, growth-minded ways.

Here are ten approaches to quality of life improvement that take a more holistic path, and why these approaches work so well for veterans looking to establish long-term wellness.

Mental health support

When it comes to veteran wellness, support for their mental health following service is critical. Despite the VA reporting that the veteran suicide rate has decreased since 2020, the rate remains higher than acceptable. To properly care for our veterans, we must ensure access to comprehensive mental health services, including counseling, therapy, and psychiatric care. Experts need to create specialized programs that specifically target post-traumatic stress symptoms. There also needs to be promotion of awareness and reduced stigma surrounding the mental health needs of veterans.

Peer support programs

Veterans are accustomed to having a direct peer group surrounding them as they serve. When they are discharged, that peer support may go away for a time, or altogether. Veteran support groups need to foster the establishment of peer support networks, where veterans with similar experiences can connect with one another and provide mutual support. These peer support networks have been found to be successful in reducing veteran loneliness and feelings of isolation. They can also help veterans develop coping skills and foster a sense of belonging, much like they had in the military.

Trauma-informed care

Healthcare providers, social workers, and other professionals working directly with veterans must be trained in providing trauma-informed care. The needs of veterans are unique, and they require care that comes from a place of understanding so that veterans feel empowered through their recovery process.

Physical health and wellness

Veterans should be encouraged to participate in regular physical activity, healthy eating habits, and access to comprehensive healthcare services. There should be a promotion of the importance of exercise for veterans, as it can reduce stress, improve one’s overall mood, and enhance the wellbeing of the veteran. Veterans and their families can collaborate with healthcare providers to develop reasonable and tailored fitness and wellness programs that fit into the veteran’s life, helping them establish a routine and stick with healthy choices.

Complementary and alternative therapies

Therapies such as yoga, meditation, acupuncture, art therapy, and equine-assistance therapy have grown in use and popularity in the past few decades. These approaches can help veterans manage stress, find relaxation, and discover pathways to self-expression.

Employment and vocational training

Although many veterans come out of the military with valuable skills that are applicable to civilian employment, some may need assistance transitioning from soldier to civilian employee. Assistance and support programs should facilitate access to educational opportunities, including scholarships, grants, and tuition assistance. Veterans should be encouraged to develop new skills or pursue academic interests or passions. Many veterans can find new pathways to growth and fulfilling career paths.

Family and social support

While peer support is integral to a veteran’s healing, family and social support is also significant. Strong family and social connections are important for a veteran’s wellbeing. Support programs should be available that take into account a veteran’s family, with offerings such as marriage or family counseling. Veterans should be encouraged to participate in social events and build connections with the community in which they find themselves after service.

Financial and legal assistance  

Many veterans can navigate financial or legal issues as they return to civilian life. These can vary, from debt and bankruptcy, to foreclosures, divorces, or child support issues. Veterans may also simply need assistance with budgeting or bill paying once they find themselves outside the military bubble. Many veterans are unaware of the entitlements and benefits they may have access to as former members of the military. Support programs should offer financial counseling and assistance programs that ensure stability and alleviate stressors.

Community engagement

As discussed, veterans need to maintain a connection to their peers and communities. They should be encouraged to actively participate in their communities through volunteering, joining veterans’ organizations, or engaging in other civic activities. This promotes a sense of belonging and purpose, allowing veterans to still apply their skills meaningfully.

Veterans have a lot to offer the world, even after their service to their country is complete. By approaching their healing from any latent trauma holistically, promoting wellness in mind, body, and spirit, veteran-aligned organizations such as Mission 22 can show veterans a healthy path to traverse after their tour is complete.

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