Military: Keeping behavioral health at guard

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SAMHSA is a proud partner of the National Guard’s Guard Your Health readiness campaign. This month we are pleased to highlight services and support for prevention of substance misuse.

The stress of combat, deployment, frequent moves, or separation from family and friends puts service members at a higher risk for heavy drinking, tobacco use, and prescription drug abuse. Mental health concerns like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or traumatic brain injury can also increase risk of substance abuse. Even for service members who are not coping with a behavioral health concern, reintegration after a deployment, mobilization, and even drill weekend can be difficult.

As a Behavioral Health Officer in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard, 2nd Lt. Frank Greenagel, Jr. knows the daily challenges soldiers face. He understands that some soldiers might view drugs or alcohol as a way to cope with stress, trauma, loneliness, or depression. The National Guard, active duty military personnel, and the reserves often experience high rates of substance use and misuse, PTSD and suicide.

After deployment, soldiers in the National Guard have the added challenge of returning to a civilian job and lifestyle, instead of going back to active duty work with their unit. Even if friends and family members are supportive, they may find it hard to understand what the soldier experienced while deployed. In addition, new coworkers, policies, and responsibilities at their civilian job can make it difficult for soldiers to pick up where they left off, leaving some to feel isolated and frustrated. Some of these challenges are explained in the video below, as well as how to find help.

No matter the cause, it is important for service members to know there are resources available to help them cope with substance abuse. And the National Guard has people like 2nd Lt. Greenagel available to help.

Soldiers can access these resources for help and support:

  • Confidential support for National Guard Soldiers is only a click, text, or call away. Search for a behavioral health contact in your stateExternal Web Site Policy.
  • Military OneSourceExternal Web Site Policy offers confidential support 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Call 800-342-9647 to discuss any challenges you are facing and to learn about available support resources.
  • SAMHSA has a number of free, confidential, 24/7 treatment and referral helplines and online locators.
  • Make the Connection shares stories of VeteransExternal Web Site Policy who have found healthy ways to cope.
  • Veteran’s Crisis LineExternal Web Site Policy connects veterans in crisis (and their families and friends) with qualified, caring Department of Veterans Affairs responders through a confidential, toll-free hotline, online chat, or text.

Source: SAMHSA

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