More Efforts Needed to Encourage Veterans to Seek Depression Treatment

The rate of depression among veterans has increased significantly in recent years. Veterans who have returned from combat situations are likely to experience a number of physical and psychological challenges, including anxiety, depression, substance misuse, and posttraumatic stress. The large number of military personnel returning from Iraq and Afghanistan has raised awareness about the mental health needs of our soldiers. The Veterans Affairs Administration (VA) has worked to improve the resources available to the high number of mentally impaired veterans in recent years and implemented a plan to make psychotherapy services more accessible to members of the VA. But before the initiation of the Comprehensive Veterans Health Administration Mental Health Strategic Plan, many veterans went under- and untreated. Individuals with ongoing mental health problems are less likely to succeed financially, professionally, and relationally, putting a strain on communities and national social resources.

Inger E. Burnett-Zeigler believes that it is important to have an accurate gauge of how many veterans received adequate care prior to this new health initiative in order to assess its progress. To measure this, Burnett-Zeigler recently analyzed data from over 200,000 veterans who had received depression diagnoses from the VA before the new health plan. Burnett-Zeigler looked at which veterans sought individual, group, or both modes of psychotherapy in the 90 days immediately following their diagnoses. The results revealed that of the 80% of the veterans who received therapy, more entered into group than individual therapy sessions after their initial diagnosis. Single female veterans, under age 35, were more likely to participate in individual sessions only, especially if they also had comorbid anxiety or substance problems. Older male veterans were more likely to enroll in group therapy alone. However, Burnett-Zeigler notes that the group therapy participants had higher completion rates than the individual therapy participants. And overall, many veterans chose not to enter into any therapy in the first few months after being diagnosed with depression. Burnett-Zeigler added, “This study highlights the assertion that more efforts are needed to encourage early initiation of psychotherapy treatment among depressed veterans.”

Burnett-Zeigler, I. E., Pfeiffer, P., Zivin, K., Glass, J. E., Ilgen, M. A., Flynn, H. A., et al. (2012). Psychotherapy utilization for acute depression within the veterans affairs health care system. Psychological Services. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0027957

© Copyright 2012 All rights reserved.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • rita

    June 28th, 2012 at 11:35 AM

    I have worked extensively with the veteran population, and believe me i know from experience just how mmuch many of them need mental health care and treatment.
    But the other thing that I know from working with this population is just how proud and stubborn so many of them are. These are men and women who for the large paet would rather stick a fork in their eye than ask someone for help, especially when it comes to mental health areas.
    This is a subject that for many of them is still very taboo and they think that they will be viewed as weak if they seek care and treatment for something that many of them don’t even recognize as a problem.
    So while I agree that the education has to get out there and we have to make more resources available, I can promise you that the even bigger problem will become actually getting many of them to utilize the services once they do become available.

  • Marquessa

    June 28th, 2012 at 3:34 PM

    Ok I want these vets to get the help that they need to recover. But I have a very hard time pouring money into a program that is either not going to be used or is going to be done only because they are made to.

    There are plenty of patients who would kill for the kind for treatment for depression that veterans would be able to receive but most of these people who need it will ever come anywhere close to getting as good of care as what vets are entitled to.

    I honestly wish that everyone would take advantage of the healthcare options and opportunities which are available to them. But if they aren’t going to take it then maybe now is the time to spread that over to others who surely would.

  • Gemma

    June 28th, 2012 at 3:38 PM

    Hypnotherapy is known to be very effective for treating depression at the root. It’s safe, cheaper than meds and has no side effects.

    The way to get out of a depression (even deep ones) is learning to accept the trauma. I know this because that’s how I got myself out of the worst depressive episode I’ve ever experienced. It was so bad I couldn’t function on a daily basis and I didn’t have any meds either. It went on for a few months and I was suicidal. The only way I was able to recover was to work through my pain by learning to accept it as it was instead of trying to brush it under the carpet by popping pills. And then I had to face some hard facts and accept those before I was able to pick myself up off the floor. So that’s how I know depression can be beaten without resorting to long term meds because these meds only treat the symptoms. They don’t address the cause.

  • martha

    June 29th, 2012 at 1:01 AM

    group therapy or individual,whatever works for the person you know…at least they are seekin help.but what about the big numbers of those who do not?do we have statistics as to why these vets do not seek help?that would definitely help.

    @rita:what you mention could be a strong needs to be looked into. having real statistics could really go a long way.

  • David

    June 29th, 2012 at 4:17 AM

    Don’t you think that this is when the families of these veterans have to then get involved? You can’t sit around and let this person that you love sink further and further into depression. Get them to the service providers, even when they don’t want to go, and tell them that this is the way it has to be. Hopefully this will be enough to open their eyes to the fact that there are some issues that they need to address and will begin to see just how much better they may feel if they actually gave this kind of treatment a try.

  • P.N

    June 29th, 2012 at 9:03 AM

    All the “I’m too tough to be hurt” mentality needs to go..You may be called a strongman, but something sharp will hurt you the same way as it does to the others..

    its no different with the mind.each one of us can be affected and we need to take all the precautions we possibly can..and when good assistance and support is provided then why not use it?

  • Brandon James

    June 30th, 2012 at 6:03 AM

    If we want the help we know its there
    Quit pushing, we have to be ready

  • sallie

    July 1st, 2012 at 4:35 AM

    They have all of this available and yet so many choose not to use it. Maybe then we should reevaluate the servivces offered and tell them that they have to get the therapy or stop receiving other services?

  • Nance

    July 1st, 2012 at 9:21 AM

    I find it unusual that so many more chose to go into group therapy then individual therapy. I have always thought of my grandad when I think of what all veterans are like. He was such a private man that he would have been mortified to share things about his own life with others in a group therapy setting. Well, he would have been mortified to go to therapy in any kind of setting. But anyway, with this kind of craving for privacy that I would have assumed that most would choose the individual setting. But I guess that maybe some of them feel like they can hide behind the groups and not have to contribute as much.

  • Cecily

    July 2nd, 2012 at 11:06 AM

    Veterans are a togh nut to crack because for the most part they really don’t want anyone to perceive that they are weak.

    This tough shell for most of them forms when they are still serving in the military because of the fear that they could be demoted or lose their job if they admit to some emotional issues plaguing them.

    So for many of them this is a task in trying to undo a lot of lessons that have been taught to them over the years and showing them that it does not make you look weak to ask for help. It makes you look wweak when you refuse the help that is there for you.

  • Jack Yianitsas

    July 6th, 2012 at 7:47 AM

    I, too, am a veteran. For five years, I experienced the debilitating symptoms of fear, anxiety, and depression. Often these symptoms are diagnosed by physicians as panic attack disorder or anxiety disorder. In a constant state of anxiety and panic, I searched desperately for a way out of my forest of despair. Following what seemed to be an almost insurmountable degree of frustration and disappointment, I found the way to permanent recovery from my severe anxiety symptoms.

Leave a Comment

By commenting you acknowledge acceptance of's Terms and Conditions of Use.

* Indicates required field.

GoodTherapy uses cookies to personalize content and ads to provide better services for our users and to analyze our traffic. By continuing to use this site you consent to our cookies.