Help available for military veterans facing mental health issues

SAN DIEGO — While May is Mental Health Awareness Month, far too many veterans who might need help aren’t seeking it.

“I spent many years not wanting to ask for help, being afraid to do so,” said Dr Dustin Potash, a US Army veteran who served a tour of duty in Iraq in 2003, returning home with PTSD.

“I had family and friends who saw something was wrong, and they said, you need help!”

Dustin finally asked for the help he needed and is giving it today: as Director of Veterans Affairs for Adjoin, a San Diego-based nonprofit that, as part of its mission, helps secure the housing for homeless veterans.

He said for veterans struggling with mental health issues, including anxiety and depression, there is too often a stigma behind seeking help.

“While they’re in the military, that’s considered ‘weak’ in quotes, but that’s not the truth.”

It’s a mentality that unfortunately persists after leaving the military.

“It’s the strong person who stands up and says, Hey, I have a problem, and I need help with this and starts looking for help.”

But according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, less than half of veterans who need mental health treatment receive it, even though more than forty percent of all veterans have mental health or addiction issues.

Dustin pointed out that – for those looking for help – San Diego is a military town.

“There’s active duty, there’s veterans…so there’s a lot of resources people can contact,” he said.

A primary resource here at home is accessible by calling 2-1-1 and identifying yourself as a veteran.

“They’ll connect you with a place called ‘Courage to Call,’ which is part of San Diego’s mental health system, and they’ll listen specifically to what’s going on and provide you with the appropriate resources.”

Often the hardest part is making that first call: emphasizing the need – in many cases – for loved ones to intervene.

“It’s a tough conversation with someone, but if you love her and care about her, you have to ask questions,” he added. “Be very direct with them because sometimes they won’t make that choice themselves.”

WATCH RELATED: WWII veterans return to Normandy beaches

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