Combatting the Invisible Foe
Hidden in plain sight, many veterans in transition face a daily battle with challenges for which they find themselves ill-equipped.
Every society with a significant number of military veterans in its midst must acknowledge its duty to those who have served their country. We need to go beyond a mere annual remembrance to an active acknowledgement of the specific challenges faced by veterans on a daily basis - especially during their transition from military service to civilian life.
The struggles that these veterans face must not be underestimated as they have far-reaching consequences, impacting not only the individuals themselves but also their families, communities, and society as a whole.
By shedding light on the ramifications of the transitional journey, we can better understand the urgency of supporting our veterans and creating a more compassionate and inclusive society.
Three of the very common challenges we should acknowledge include: unemployment and welfare issues, the prevalence of chronic mental health issues, and the alarming rates of suicide.
These issues we'll highlight here by drawing upon reliable statistical sources from both the United States and the United Kingdom, statistics that reflect what is really a global issue.
Unemployment and Welfare Challenges
One of the most pressing issues veterans face during transition is the difficulty in securing employment.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of September 2021, the unemployment rate for US veterans (who had served on active duty in the Armed Forces since September 2001) was 4.4%, a rate that exceeded the US national average unemployment rate at the time. Similarly in the UK, a 2021 Ministry of Defence survey found 11% of veterans were unemployed, compared to just 4% of non-veterans.
Veterans' unemployment can be attributed to several factors, including the struggle to translate military skills and experiences into civilian job qualifications. Veterans also often have to deal with physical and mental health conditions resulting from their military service which further limit their ability to engage in certain professions.
As a result of this, unemployed veterans often have to rely on welfare programs for daily financial support. While some qualify for unemployment benefits, others require assistance from social welfare programs to meet even their basic needs. This reliance on welfare impacts veterans, their families, and society at large, placing added strain on finances and mental wellbeing.
Chronic Mental Health Issues
Chronic mental health issues are prevalent among veterans in transition. In the US, a 2021 study found 30% of surveyed post-9/11 veterans reported having been diagnosed with a mental health condition like depression, PTSD or anxiety. Comparable UK data shows 19% of veterans surveyed by the Ministry of Defence in 2021 had probable PTSD, depression or anxiety.
The lingering effects of combat and traumatic experiences during military service (during training, as well as on tours of duty) can lead to long-term psychological consequences. Left unaddressed, these mental health challenges can hinder veterans' ability to reintegrate into civilian life successfully, impacting their relationships, employment prospects, and overall quality of life.
Perhaps the most distressing consequence of the plight of transitioning veterans is the high rate of suicide.
According to the US Department of Veterans Affairs, in 2018 an average of 17.6 veterans died by suicide each day.
Similarly, a UK study analyzing 2001-2014 mortality data found the risk of suicide was 2 times higher for male veterans compared to non-veterans.
For female veterans, the risk was even greater at 2.6 times higher. This alarming statistic highlights the urgency of addressing mental health issues within the veteran community, and calls for effective intervention to start in the months, and even years, before they leave the services.
The reasons behind the elevated suicide rates are complex and multifaceted. Many veterans grapple with the invisible scars of combat, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety.
The stress of transition, coupled with difficulties in adjusting to civilian life, as well as a perceived loss of purpose, exacerbates these mental health challenges. And all these matters must be addressed to help resolve the present, unacceptable situation that too many veterans are continually battling.
Preventing these casualties must be a top priority, but positive impact will only occur when we have adequately addressed the key issues of individual purpose and personal identity.
Facing the Facts
The data presents a sober reality. Veterans in the US, the UK and numerous other countries tries in the world face elevated risks for unemployment, mental health struggles and suicide compared to the general public. Recognizing these issues is crucial for building a more compassionate and supportive society.
Honouring those who have served our nations, we must provide comprehensive support during the transition process. This includes enhancing job training and placement programs, prioritising mental health care, and fostering a better understanding of the challenges faced by veterans.
In later articles we will also explore the enormous value that veterans can gain from reliable personality profiling tools. Such tools can provide extremely helpful insight regarding the individual's deep-seated motivations, values, needs, strengths and struggles. Fostering their self-awareness through the use of such tools can help each veteran carve a more suitable pathway, inform their choices and help them align more effectively to their innate qualities.
Armed with this knowledge, along with an understanding of the common challenges veterans face, we can collectively create a society that truly values and supports those who have selflessly served, ensuring their successful integration and a brighter future for all.
At TEAM ME® we're exploring new ways to elevate the self-respect, self-worth, self-awareness and self-empowerment of veterans in the UK and around the world.
If you are actively involved in supporting veterans at scale, feel free to get in touch to see how our rapid Personality Profiling solution could help you in your own quest to elevate the lives of those who have served - and still have so much more to give.
Pad is a trusted adviser to business leaders across the globe. He is Director at Come Alive Success Coaching ltd. and the Author of TEAM ME - How to Play Your Best Game in Life, and TEAM GUY - Forging Men of Soul & Steel.