AMVETS, one of the nation's leading veterans service organizations, and the National Alliance on Mental Illness signed a memorandum of understanding last week at the alliance's Virginia headquarters in Arlington.
The memorandum allows AMVETS and NAMI to share resources to assist veterans and their families in identifying and coping with mental illness. Together, the two organizations have more than 2,500 locations where veterans and their families can go to learn more about readjustment issues and mental illness.
"When troops come home from war, they just want to go home. They often don't want to admit that they're having issues readjusting," said John P. Brown III, AMVETS national commander. "By partnering with NAMI, AMVETS will help teach families about some of the warning signs of mental illness and show them where to get help for their loved ones."
A recent report by the Rand Corporation, a nonprofit think tank, found that nearly 300,000 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. Another 320,000 potentially suffer from traumatic brain injuries, according to the report.
The Department of Veterans Affairs has acknowledged some of these veterans aren't within commuting distance of VA health care facilities, which creates gaps in available care. While VA takes steps to bridge these gaps, AMVETS and NAMI are taking steps of their own to provide assistance.
The NAMI partnership, which developed out of AMVETS' "National Symposium on the Needs of Young Veterans," will help families of deployed servicemembers to identify warning signs of potential mental health problems once their loved ones return from combat.
AMVETS is uniquely poised to offer assistance to servicemembers and their families through a 2005 memorandum of understanding with the National Guard Bureau, which allows AMVETS posts and departments to work directly with National Guard units across the country.
To date, AMVETS has provided thousands of man-hours in support of the National Guard. The new partnership with NAMI will augment the kind of support that AMVETS offers to recently returned veterans facing a potentially difficult transition.
AMVETS also will work with NAMI to dispel the negative stigma surrounding post-combat mental health issues, something the Rand study suggests keeps many veterans from seeking treatment. However, AMVETS is looking to teach that the human reaction to combat experience is natural and can be addressed through proper mental health channels.
AMVETS is a supporter of America Support You, a Defense Department program connecting citizens and companies with military personnel and their families serving at home and abroad.
American Forces Press Service