5 Myths About Mental Health Disorders 

Mental health disorders among Veterans are probably one of the most complex and confusing topics. On the one hand, everyone would agree that the whole nature of military service, deployment, and combat is associated with tremendous levels of stress, which can take a toll on your mental health.

At the same time, the “tough it out” mentality promoted around the military community, can stigmatize the whole idea of mental health concerns. 

Despite best efforts to raise awareness, the topic of mental health in the military is still rife with misunderstandings, lack of credible information, and false assumptions. Not only can they prevent Veterans from claiming their rightfully earned benefits, but these misconceptions can further cause Veterans to suppress their emotions and avoid seeking help for fear of being perceived as weak or unfit for duty. 

Today we are taking a closer look and debunking common myths about mental health disorders among Veterans. We can’t cover all misconceptions in just one blog post, but we’ll discuss the 5 most common ones, those that can affect your ability to receive qualified help and hard-earned disability benefits.

What the Data Says on Mental Health

According to the Special Needs Alliance (SNA), mental illness is the most common disability in the U.S. 20% of the adult population experiences mental illness annually. At the same time, the RAND Corporation reports that Veterans, especially those who have been deployed, are more likely than civilians to experience mental health conditions or cognitive injuries. For example, one in five of U.S. Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan experience PTSD or major depression.

This statement is also confirmed by the data from the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), which says that among Veterans hospitalized in the VA healthcare system, the majority are those who have service-connected mental health disabilities. 

In other words, mental health conditions among Veterans is not a topic that should be swept under the rug. It’s a brutal reality for millions of Veterans and their families.

Acknowledging it, raising awareness, and debunking the myths are major steps towards changing the situation and probably saving lives.

5 Mental Health Myths Debunked


Myth #1: Mental Health Disorders Only Affect Combat Veterans

This is one of the most common misconceptions that we see at VCU. Unfortunately, people still have a very vague idea of mental conditions such as PTSD and their causes. 

Media and historical journals usually focus on the traumatic experiences of soldiers who were involved in combat situations, often overlooking that the disorder can be caused by a wide range of traumatic events, not necessarily connected with combat experience.

The Reality: Veterans From All Branches Can Experience Mental Trauma

While combat Veterans indeed have higher rates of PTSD, suicidal ideation, and other mental health conditions, military personnel from all branches and various roles can experience a stressful event, which may lead to the development or aggravation of a mental health issue.

Non-combat personnel can face:

  • Traffic collisions
  • Training accidents
  • Military sexual trauma
  • Survivor’s guilt
  • Fear of hostile military encounters
  • Exposure to death and violence

All those are factors that can affect your mental health for life. At the same time, evidence that you experienced any of these or other potentially traumatizing events can make you entitled to a VA disability rate, compensation, and other benefits provided by the VA system.

The Myth #2: Service-connected PTSD Will Manifest Right After the Trauma

Another common myth is that a Veteran can claim VA disability benefits for PTSD only if there is evidence that it appeared right after a traumatizing event. Many believe that unless they were fully examined and diagnosed with PTSD during active duty, they cannot be entitled to any  VA disability benefits.

The Reality: Symptoms of PTSD Can Appear Months and Even Years After a Traumatic Event 

According to Mayo Clinic, post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms often start within one month of a traumatic event. But sometimes they may not appear until years after the traumatizing experience.

Experts from the National Center for PTSD claim that this mental health disorder is probably the most common one among Veterans. And the most complex one. In fact, it is merely impossible to predict when and how PTSD will manifest and affect your life.

Moreover, PTSD is often linked to many physical service-connected disabilities, such as sleep apnea, hypertension, eye-related disabilities, chronic pains, or tinnitus

Its symptoms may include:

  • Nightmares
  • Flashbacks
  • Memory problems
  • Feelings of detachment
  • Emotional numbness
  • Anger
  • Trouble sleeping

Getting diagnosed and receiving a nexus statement that establishes the link between your PTSD symptoms and your military service or service-connected disability will let you increase your VA disability rate and receive your benefits in full.

Myth #3: All Veterans Have Mental Health Disorders

This is another extreme view on mental health conditions among Veterans. While the first two myths that we discussed may prevent a Veteran from receiving their VA disability benefits, this misconception can make it hard for Veterans to adjust to civilian life, build new healthy connections, or find employment.

Because of this false belief, Veterans are misunderstood, marginalized, and labeled as “broken.” It may eventually lead to being reluctant to socialize, start new relationships, or ask for help when they need it, resulting in depression and substance abuse

Reality: Veterans are People, and All People are Different!

While mental health disorders are a pressing issue in the military, according to the highest estimates from the BMJ Military Health, only 38% of Veterans tend to show any sign of mental disturbance, most of which is minor and cannot affect their normal functioning at work or everyday life.

In other words, most Veterans return home without any symptoms of PTSD or other mental health disorders. Transitioning to civilian life can be challenging as it is and there is no reason to invent additional obstacles, avoid Veterans, or refuse employment due to unfounded concerns. 

Myth #4: The VA Does Not Take Mental Health Claims Seriously

This myth is the reason why so many Veterans are underrated. For some reason, knowing how mental health issues are stigmatized in the military community, Veterans assume that the VA itself does not take claims about mental health disabilities seriously and that is why these claims are so often denied.

Reality: A Mental Health Claim Is Equally As Important as Any Other Claim

Let’s think about it rationally: If mental health disability claims were not a serious matter, the VA would not create this segment of disability claims in the first place.

Within the VA rating system mental health disabilities have their diagnostic codes and rating formula, as described in the Schedule for Rating Disabilities

Many mental health disability claims do get denied by the VA. But it does not happen because the VA does not want to deal with them or does not take them seriously. Normally the issue is that a case may lack compelling evidence, medical records, nexus statements, and other documents that connect a condition to the military service and shows how it presently affects a Veteran’s life.

That is why we strongly recommend consulting qualified professionals, who will not only equip you with the most relevant information and insights about the process and perspectives of your case but also help you contact medical professionals for examinations that you may require, such as  Disability Benefits Questionnaires (DBQs) and Nexus Statements. And if your claim is denied, they will help you appeal until justice is restored. 

Myth #5: You Should Just Get Over It

This is probably the most dangerous myth – That Veterans should “stop whining and just get over their issues.”

Historically, military culture has emphasized toughness, self-reliance, and stoicism. This attitude often discourages showing vulnerability or seeking help for mental health issues, leading some Veterans to believe that they should be able to handle their problems independently.

The Reality: Mental Health Conditions Only Worsen if Untreated

Veterans often believe that they will be labeled as “weak” and “outliers” if they admit to struggling with mental health issues. And it is very dangerous for several reasons:

  • Prevents Veterans from seeking and receiving qualified help
    Unfortunately, mental health issues don’t just fade away with time. They tend to worsen and can become life-threatening conditions, if left untreated.
  • Leaves Veterans alone with their trouble
    Thinking that they cannot count on any help, benefits, and support, Veterans with undiagnosed or untreated mental health disabilities face social and financial challenges that can be avoided with support from society and qualified assistance from professionals.
  • It worsens the situation
    This concept keeps marginalizing the Veteran community. It makes the process of transitioning to civilian life even more challenging and often prevents Veterans from finding stable employment and building new relationships. It also devalues all the efforts made to raise awareness about mental health disorders among both Veteran and civilian populations.

Only by acknowledging the complex nature of mental health disorders and the need for qualified assistance, we will manage to overcome all the misconceptions and make sure that those who made sacrifices for our country will be honored and rewarded the way they deserve.

In Summary

Unfortunately, Veterans who suffer from mental health disabilities are often marginalized, misunderstood, and mistreated. This happens as a myriad of myths and misconceptions. Raising awareness, we hope to help people rise above prejudice and encourage their loved ones to seek and receive help on time.

And when it comes to restoring justice and claiming what is rightfully yours, the VCU team is here for you. Start by booking a FREE 30-minute call, and we will make sure that your disability claim is built and presented in the best way possible and that you receive everything you deserve for your honorable service and selfless sacrifice.

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