Guest Opinion by Judi Reiss: Thank Veterans and Tell Them You Support Them  | Newtown News of Interest |

[Judi Reiss is prothonotary for Bucks County.]


In Bucks and Montgomery counties, there are approximately 50,000 veterans, and we should all find a way to honor them this Veterans Day.


But let’s take a moment to discuss how we can better serve those who have served our country. The National Council for Behavioral Health claims that 30% of active duty and reserve military personnel — approximately 730,000 men and women — have a mental health condition requiring treatment. Many experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, and major depression.


The sad reality is that less than 50% of returning veterans in need receive any mental health treatment. This should especially be striking to all of us, considering the Veterans Administration reports that 22 veterans die by suicide every day.


This is unacceptable. We have a duty to repay the sacrifice of those who have served our country by ensuring they have access to mental health care. We also need to educate them and their loved ones on the early signs of mental health issues and on the resources available.


With an ongoing opioid and addiction crisis, it is key to note that 19.3% of U.S. adults with mental illness also experienced a substance abuse disorder within the last year. We need money for rehabilitation and treatment programs, yes, but if we want to be proactive and stop substance abuse before it starts, we need more funds for expanded access to affordable mental health care.


There’s no reason why we can’t end the stigma, get help to those who need it and stop failing our veterans. It starts by spreading awareness. Talk to your friends, family and neighbors about mental illness. Demand your elected officials talk about it. I won’t stop talking about it, either during this campaign or as your representative in Congress.


This Veterans Day, thank a veteran, and let them know you are there to help if they need it and that you are willing to fight for them as they have for you.