Together for Mental Health Awareness Month
Washington DC VA Medical Center is on a mission to spread awareness of mental health disorders, and resources available to Veterans who struggle with them during Mental Health Awareness Month.
Associate Chief of Staff for Mental Health Service, Dominque Neptune, M.D., said the stigma of receiving care appears to be fading, but there is still a vital need to educate people on the signs and symptoms of the “invisible illness.”
“It has such an impact on lives and on the community, yet it is something that people often bear the brunt of alone,” she said. “That’s why we must educate people on what symptoms to look for, that they’re treatable and how to connect people with resources that can help them feel better.”
The DC VA Medical Center’s Mental Health Care Team has more than 200 health care professionals with diverse specialties who are well equipped to handle any situation a Veteran may be struggling with. They are strategically placed throughout the DC VA Medical Center, Community Resource and Referral Center, Community-Based Outpatient Clinics and Vet Centers to help Veterans wherever they receive care.
“We have mental health providers co-located in primary care, women’s health, neuropsychology, home-based care and more. It’s a collaborative effort designed to ensure that if a Veteran asks for help, we have someone present and ready to give it,” said Neptune.
VA provides support for a variety of mental health conditions and life challenges to include:
- Effects of TBI
- Military Sexual Trauma
- Substance Use
- Suicide Prevention
VA offers counseling opportunities that include family members to help them understand how they can better support their Veteran at home. Neptune said these services are designed to educate and support those closest to the Veteran.
“It’s critical that we recognize and really highlight opportunities to help support people and that includes the family members,” said Neptune. “Most often, these are the people who are the most engaged with the Veteran and can help them to see when they are slipping or have symptoms that they may not make note of on their own.”
VA Mental Health resources are available for several groups to include:
- Transitioning Service Member
- Veteran Looking for Support
- Woman Veteran
- LGBTQ+ Veteran
- Family Member or Friend
- Older Veterans
- Health Care Provider
- College Faculty Member
COVID-19 led to an increase in those seeking Mental Health Care at the DC VA Medical Center, but Neptune said some of the additional patients may be attributed to a positive aspect of the pandemic: Virtual Telehealth.
“These services did more than just connect struggling Veterans with help during the pandemic, they eliminated barriers that once deterred Veterans from seeking mental health care. By doing away with things like traffic, parking and long drive times, telehealth made care convenient,” she said.
However they prefer to receive care, Neptune stressed that Veterans just need to reach out and her team will be happy to get them on the road to feeling better.
“For many people, times are more challenging than they have ever been, and we recognize that,” said Neptune. “But all of us here really enjoy and believe in the VA mission to care for Veterans and we don’t lose sight of that. We are ready to support you in whatever way we can.”
Learn more about the Mental Health Care resources available at the VA.