Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Treating Mental Illness In The Military Family

military family mental illness
Men and women who serve in the military are entitled to receive adequate medical and psychological care. Those who deploy overseas face significant obstacles, risking both life and limb. The impact this type of existence can have on such people is high. Many servicemen and women who come back to the United States from tours in the Middle East find that they now have a fight of a different kind, mental illness.

At HVRC, we accept TRICARE insurance; and, have created a program designed to address the unique needs of men and women serving in the military. However, we also understand that the entirety of a military family can encounter mental health difficulties. Mothers and fathers, husbands or wives, and sons and daughters can all experience traumas of their own; the symptoms of which can significantly disrupt a person’s life.

These people, after all, have to contend with the thought that they may never see their loved one again after deployment. Such fears can wreak havoc on a person’s mind. Those who lack healthy methods of coping with emotions that accompany having a loved one in the military can develop mental health conditions, including alcohol or substance use disorder.

For the families whose loved ones who do manage to make it home, the reality that the person they love has changed can take a severe toll. An individual does not have to be on the battlefield to become collateral damage.


Military Families Struggle With Mental Illness, Too

Research tells us that service men and women, and their spouses are at a higher risk of developing depression than the general public. Untreated depression, for instance, often results in suicidal ideation and the development of substance use disorder. Simply put, mental illness can be deadly; thus immediate intervention is of the utmost importance.

Naturally, children face obstacles of their own. In 2016, more than 2,200 children had already lost a parent in Iraq or Afghanistan, according to the NCCP. It is also worth noting that of the 1.7 million soldiers who had served overseas by the end of 2008, nearly half were parents, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs reports. A study published in 2010 found that the children of deployed parents are at heightened risk of behavioral, stress, and mood disorders.

The negative emotions that spouses and children experience while their loved ones are away can lead to anxiety and depressive disorders. Such individuals often turn to drugs and alcohol as a means of coping, only to exacerbate their symptoms and risk developing a substance use disorder. When servicemen or women come home changed, and their loved one is already having trouble coping with their emotions, it can create a perfect storm of dysfunction.

It is vital that military family members experiencing adverse mental health symptoms reach out for support and talk about what they are experiencing. Asking for help prevents mental illness from worsening and is the first step toward recovery.


California Tricare Addiction Treatment

Hemet Valley Recovery Center and Sage Retreat offer high quality, hospital-based care for active duty service members, veterans and their families. We proudly accept TRICARE West insurance to provide affordable, evidence-based addiction and co-occurring mental health disorder treatment. Please contact us today to learn more about our services and how we can help family members of active military.

Friday, January 11, 2019

First Responders In Need Of Recovery

First responders work on the front lines of tragedy. Police officers, paramedics, and firefighters routinely put the needs of others ahead of their own; and, such people work in environments that hardly allow them to talk about their own problems. The paradox is that the very same people who disregard their own safety for the sake of others are also some of the most vulnerable to experiencing lasting trauma, substance use disorder, and co-occurring mental illness.

Men and women working in high-risk occupations are at a heightened risk of using drugs and alcohol to cope with their experiences. Witnessing horrific events – such as the loss of family members, children, and co-workers – can leave seemingly indelible scars on a person’s psyche. In many cases, those living with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and co-occurring mental illness feel it is unacceptable to reach out for help.

The culture of first responders is made up of heroes, and heroes are not supposed to have weaknesses according to popular belief. The result is that many brave Americans needlessly suffer in silence and fail to get the help they so desperately need. Which is why sometimes a hero's most heroic act involves reaching out for help and starting a journey of recovery.


Helping First Responders Find Recovery

Many people engaged in dangerous fields of work struggle with alcohol and substance use disorders and mental health conditions stemming from untreated PTSD. Those who feel unable or unwilling to seek assistance experience relationship problems, employment setbacks, irritability, and sleep disturbances. It is absolutely vital that first responders feel supported and empowered to seek help; it is critical that they come to believe that seeking help is a sign of strength rather than weakness.

At Hemet Valley Recovery Center and Sage Retreat, we have successfully treated many first responders over the years. Men and women presenting with untreated PTSD, anxiety, depression, and addiction. In many cases, unhealthy coping mechanisms like drinking and drugging become the only way such individuals can make it through the day. Realizing that there was a need for a program tailored specifically for first responders, we designed a Heroes Program. We help firefighters, peace officers, EMTs, and active and retired military personnel learn healthy coping mechanisms for dealing with the symptoms of mental illness.

Our team of professionals utilizes a scientific and holistic approach to help our nation’s heroes confront negative life experiences and the pathologies that trauma can give rise to, such as depression and anxiety. Simply put, we help first responders get better and get back to work, relying on recovery rather than drugs and alcohol.

We understand that there are limited options for this demographic, few treatment centers offer tracks similar to our Heroes Program. We believe that it is worth mentioning that the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) recognized the need for helping more first responders find recovery. The IAFF created the Center of Excellence for Behavioral Health Treatment and Recovery for its member firefighters struggling with mental illness. The facility is located near Washington, D.C.


Helping Heroes At HVRC

Please contact us to learn more about our program for first responders. We can conduct a complimentary assessment and discuss your options, please call us today at 866-273-0868 to take the first step toward living in recovery.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Treating Mental Illness In The Military

Most Americans will never know what it is like to see a good friend die in their arms; grasp the sensation of being shot at; and, we will never understand what is like to get into a military transport with the risk of driving over an improvised explosive device. Trauma, and what follows from it, is not unique to servicemen and women; but, those who serve knowingly put themselves in harm's way for something more significant. A decision to pit courage against fire puts a person at significant risk of losing life, limb, or sanity. For the latter, those who survive war only to fight an internal struggle for years to come potentially, mental illness becomes their enemy.

Mental illnesses, like post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD, are all too common in the armed services. Moreover, men and women affected by such ailments are conditioned to keep their illness to his or herself; many understand that acknowledging mental disease, and seeking help, could mean the end of a career or a significant setback at least. The stigma that surrounds mental illness affecting the general public is just as insidious in the military, if not more damaging. Additionally, people who come back from war with indelible scars often have a harder time acquiring evidence-based treatment compared to the average citizen.

So, if you can’t talk about what you are dealing with, and adequate help is difficult to acquire even if you do, then what option does that leave you? For some, the only choice is silence and having to contend with illness in secret; an avenue that is often unsafe to both the individual and those they love. In many cases, the need for relief is so great that active members and veterans alike will turn to drugs and alcohol as a means of coping with symptoms. Substance use, or in this case self-medication, is a sure path to more issues including addiction.

Mental Illness In The Military

Functional impairment, substance abuse, suicidal ideation, impulsivity, and violence are common symptoms of people living with PTSD. The condition manifests differently from one person to the next, but all who are affected do not fare well without treatment. Of the more than 2 million men and women who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, nearly a third of all service-persons are living with a mental health condition, according to data published in JAMA. A recent article appearing in Psychiatric Times written by Jeffrey Lieberman, MD, Chairman of the Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons Department of Psychiatry, makes some excellent points about mental illness in the military.

Dr. Lieberman rightly highlights the lack of support provided for individuals coming home from foreign wars and their families. He acknowledges that effective treatments exist, but more research is needed involving not just the military but also the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The Lawrence E. Kolb Professor stresses the importance of early intervention and how it can increase functional capacity, rapid symptom recovery, prevention of maladaptive coping behaviors, and prevention of chronic PTSD and other psychopathology.

In his article, Dr. Lieberman lays out why he thinks more has not been done for the brave Americans who are willing to sacrifice everything. Then, he follows his observations with how things can change. Lieberman writes:

I believe there are three reasons why the same has not been done for the psychological wounds of war. First, the idea of psychological weakness is antithetical to military culture with its ethos of strength and invulnerability. Thus, military leaders were disinclined to recognize and accept the possibility of psychic injury. As a result, many soldiers were accused of cowardice and in some cases punished, even executed, for their infirmity. Second, mental disorders are not tangible and have no visible physical signs or diagnostic tests by which they can be confirmed. Hence, they are not seen as real, and are thus minimized—you don’t get a Purple Heart for PTSD. Third, PTSD was considered a military problem and thus the responsibility of the Defense Department and Veteran’s Administration. Consequently, the NIH did not see this as within the scope of their mission and thus the best and the brightest biomedical researchers at academic medical institutions were not engaged in the research effort to address PTSD. 

Dr. Lieberman believes a cure can be found for PTSD and finding it will require a Manhattan Project-esque approach to understand the pathophysiology better and develop more effective treatments. He says it is impossible, but success will hinge on:
  • The government creating “a task force of leading scientists to develop a strategic plan for research on the pathological basis of PTSD and develop treatments.”
  • Congress allocating “funding to support the necessary research to be carried out under the auspices of the National Institutes of Health in partnership with the VA and Department of Defense.”
  • Establishing “a network of medical centers in addition to the VA Hospitals to provide specialized mental health services for veterans, and mechanisms for reimbursement.”


TRICARE Addiction Treatment

At Hemet Valley Recovery Center, we are committed to assisting active duty service members and veterans in achieving long-term recovery. We are proud to accept TRICARE insurance so that those who have dedicated their lives to serving and protecting others can access affordable addiction and co-occurring disorder treatment. Please contact our recovery specialists to get a better understanding of your benefits and to learn more about our programs.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Continued Progress In Recovery: NYE

addiction recovery
Few people in addiction and co-occurring disorder recovery will find the results of a 2014 survey by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) surprising. The data indicates that 64 percent of people with mental illness find the holidays make their conditions worse.

“For many people the holiday season is not always the most wonderful time of the year” said NAMI medical director Ken Duckworth. “What the survey shows is a tremendous need for people to reach out and watch out for each other in keeping with the spirit of the season.”

With one more major holiday in front of us, it is critical to prioritize self-care to avoid any complication is one’s recovery. Christmas is now behind us, but that does not mean that the stress of the holidays is gone. New Year’s Eve is a day when relapse rates are exceptionally high, anything you can do to strengthen your program and ward off the risk of relapse is a must.

There are several tools and behaviors one can employ to help manage uncomfortable situations and the feelings that can arise. In our most previous post, we discussed things to keep in mind as you trudge the road of recovery through the holidays. If you didn’t read the article, we invite you to do so, but the gist of it dealt with understanding one’s limitations. Biting off more than one can chew, can be a recipe for relapse in recovery. With NYE less than a week away, it is vital for all people living with mental illness to continue reading the pulse of their recovery.

Expectations in Recovery

New Year’s Eve is a day for partying from one coast to the other; and, an overwhelming amount of alcohol is imbibed as Americans hail in the New Year. People in early recovery are often invited to such gatherings, and it should go without saying that accepting such invitations must be done cautiously.

Making it through New Year’s Eve means managing your expectations, of yourself and others. If old friends and family are pressuring you to attend an event that is unlikely to be conducive to recovery, then pull back. Your continued progress must come before all else; why jeopardize all your hard work just to make other people happy? If an environment is probably going to be unsafe or might generate feelings that can cause you to slip, it is best to decline NYE invitations.

The good news is that people in recovery are not sticks in the mud. Each year, at this time, people working a program come together to bring in the New Year with a smile on their face. Aside from meetings being held around the clock, some members of the recovery community organize dances or dinner parties. Together, those attending can have fun and honor their commitments by putting their physical and spiritual well-being, first.

At the next meeting, you visit, ask your peers about any sobriety-centered holiday events happening next week. Attending will provide an opportunity to strengthen your program all while having a good time.


A New Year in Addiction Recovery

At Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat, we would like to wish everyone a safe and sober New Year’s Eve and a new year defined by continued progress. If you are currently in the grips of active addiction or suffering from a co-occurring mental illness, please contact HVRC to take the first step toward healing and lasting recovery.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Holidays: Recognizing Limitations In Recovery

This will be our last post before Christmas, so we thought it prudent to discuss the importance of recovery-first during the holidays. If this is your first year in recovery, then this may be your program’s first real test. Unfortunately, relapse over the holidays is a common occurrence, but it can be avoided provided however you put your program first.

Addiction recovery must always be a priority; however, holidays often demand more of people than average days of the year. That can mean attending more meetings than usual or calling your sponsor or recovery peers more often than average. The point is that it’s beneficial to remain connected to the recovery community during more emotionally taxing times of the year.

Men and women should attempt to plan all holiday activities around the needs of one’s program. They must also be conscious of their limitations to avoid situations that can compromise one's program strength. People, places, and things that carry even a slight risk of jeopardizing a person’s recovery should be avoided, even when it is upsetting. Early recovery is a fragile time, placing oneself into hazardous situations this Christmas and New Year’s Eve is inadvisable.

The Pulse of Recovery

The value of recognizing your limitations cannot be overemphasized. Which means if you are unsure about attending a holiday festivity, it’s best to discuss your plans with a trusted confidant first. Your sponsor or someone else in your support network could help you gauge if your attendance is unwise.

If there is an activity that you feel must be attended, perhaps one of your peers in the program can be your plus-one. It helps to have support when you find yourself in an environment that carries the potential of generating undesirable feelings. Family gatherings are notorious for precipitating old ways of thinking; if a person does not have their finger on the pulse of recovery, then they are at risk making poor decisions to cope with feelings.

It is also vital to remind oneself that there is no shame in choosing not to attend holiday dinners or New Year’s Eve parties. Your loved ones may try to pressure you into going, but your lack of taking part is nothing to feel guilty about. If recovery is your priority, then it is best to heed any reservations you have about attending. There will always be other gatherings in the years to come, that’s a guarantee; but, there is no guarantee that a person has another recovery.

Lastly, do your best to operate in a state of gratitude and practice being present as much as possible. Take some time to recognize the strides made since you got sober and to express your appreciation for everyone who is instrumental to your recovery. Telling someone how thankful you are for their help may be the best gift that that person receives this Christmas. So never hesitate to gift the gift of gratitude. When the people in your support network know they are appreciated it makes you feel good inside, which is a priceless gift.

Reach Out for Recovery

Perhaps, you have decided that 2019 is the year that you heal from mental illness and begin a rewarding journey of recovery. Please reach out to Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat to take the first step toward a new life.