MIRECC / CoE
Friends and Other Veteran Supporters
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Friends and Other Supporters
Many people know a Veteran who may be experiencing physical or mental health challenges or adjusting to civilian life after returning from active duty. This person could be a close friend or co-worker. You may wonder how you can express your concerns while respecting the Veteran’s choices and preferences regarding treatment. Browse the information below for guidance on supporting the Veterans in your life.
Are you looking for help in encouraging a Veteran to get support or mental health care? Call 888-823-7458
- If we miss your call, leave a message or email CoachingIntoCare@va.gov and we’ll return your call within one business day.
- Coaching is provided by licensed psychologists or social workers and it is completely free of charge.
- Calls generally last from 10 to 30 minutes depending on the situation. Some coaching requires more than one call, usually with the same coach.
Talking With a Veteran in Your Life
Encourage the Veteran To Seek Care
- Be patient. It typically takes more than one conversation for someone to seek care.
- Don’t argue with or invalidate the Veteran’s feelings, thoughts or emotions.
- Let them know that you are willing to listen without offering advice or suggestions. Avoid giving advice unless the Veteran specifically asks for it.
- Minimize distractions during conversations with the Veteran by putting away electronic devices.
- Consider limiting conversations to just 10–20 minutes or whatever the Veteran is comfortable with.
Support the Veteran in Addressing Mental Health Concerns
- Be aware of and avoid triggers that may aggravate the Veteran.
- Talk about your feelings and, without forcing the issue, encourage the Veteran to share their feelings.
- Plan activities with the Veteran on a regular basis, and try sticking to a schedule or routine.
- Don’t force the Veteran into social outings, and be patient when they feel overwhelmed.
Take Care of Yourself Too
- Engage in activities that you enjoy or that reduce stress.
- Educate yourself about mental health challenges, especially those that the Veteran experiences.
- Consider signing up to get mental health support or attending therapy.
- Join a support group to talk with others who are experiencing similar challenges.
Learn the Signs of Mental Health Challenges
Treatment can help Veterans manage many symptoms of mental health concerns, including:
- Changes in someone’s attitude and behavior that do not align with their values, morals or character.
- Displays of uncharacteristic emotions like anger, anxiety and agitation.
- Isolating from people and activities that they used to enjoy.
- Difficulty taking care of themselves or other responsibilities.
- Engaging in self-destructive behaviors like alcohol or drug misuse.
- Expressing feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness.
Read Information About Specific Mental Health Topics
- Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- Substance use disorder
- Domestic violence
For information on other topics and conditions, visit www.mentalhealth.va.gov.