Throughout the year, we pay tribute to our nation’s heroes on Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day, and National Military and Caregiver Appreciation Month. As a country, we do this with numerous initiatives to help those who served in our armed forces, with recent efforts concentrating on homelessness, employment, and health care.
This Military Appreciation Month, MyAdvisor wants to talk about something we have helped our Veteran community in for over 15 years – holistic health and well-being.
It’s a commonly known statistic that 17 veterans commit suicide on a daily basis, a number that was recently recalculated by the Department of Veterans Affairs. That is one and a half times more than the rate of civilians. In fact, between 2008 and 2017, 60,000 veterans died by suicide.
The sad reality is those numbers continue to increase year after year and there are still roadblocks preventing veterans from getting the help they need.
- People in rural areas are at a disadvantage: According to data from Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), 118 million Americans live in mental health professional shortage areas. In fact, 65 percent of non-metropolitan counties don’t have a psychiatrist, and 47 percent don’t have a psychologist. This means that veterans living in rural areas have limited access to mental health care providers.
- Resources aren’t keeping up with America’s mental health crisis: More and more people need help nationwide. The CDC reports that suicide rates are the highest they’ve been in more than 70 years, while 1 in 5 Americans will experience mental health illness in any given year. In Pennsylvania, meanwhile, more than 300 people a day were hospitalized for mental illness issues in 2018, stretching resources to the limit, including a shortage of beds in hospital psychiatric units.
- A stigma remains: While mental health illnesses and treatment are discussed more in mainstream media today, people are still reluctant to ask for help. According to the American Psychological Association, many service members don’t seek out treatment due to the stigma associated with receiving mental health care, causing half of the post-9/11 veterans to not receive the mental health care they need.
The challenges are many, but they are not insurmountable. At MyAdvisor, we believe that technology provides support with options — specifically, telemental health, which is when therapists or other counselors provide support through online channels or over the telephone.
The results of this type of treatment are striking:
- In 2017, psychiatric hospitalizations dropped 31% among those who enrolled in a VA telemental health program.
- 45% of VA telehealth patients lived in outlying areas.
- A 2016 study found remote health care access resulted in an average travel savings of 145 miles and 142 min per visit resulting in an average travel payment savings of $18,555 per year.
- Women veterans were able to find same-gender care through telemental health providers, an option not usually available in rural areas.
We’ve seen improved patient outcomes with our own telemental health program, MyAdvisor. Over the past 15 years of working with the VA, the program has used sophisticated technology to connect veterans from near and far with our team of nearly trained and licensed care coordinators. With more than 40,000 calls on a monthly basis, the demand for this kind of support is clear.
Telemental health’s ease of use and ability to bring support to veterans who live, in some cases, hundreds of miles from their nearest VA hospital is invaluable. As part of our mission, MyAdvisor is using technology as a tool to improve the availability of mental health needs and provide service to those who provide service to others.
This Military Appreciation Month— and every day — we want our heroes and their families to know there is more than one route to mental health treatment. They served our country. Now, it’s time we all serve them.