Veterans encouraged to start conversation about mental health with online tool

Contact: Lauren DeVol, MVAA, 517-284-5236

May 2, 2016

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

LANSING, Mich. – “How are you feeling?”

It’s a question sometimes asked in the midst of casual conversation, but for veterans it could be the start of an important conversation about their mental health – and how they can seek help.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency encourages all veterans to ask themselves that very question. Mental health is a sensitive yet important subject, and for this reason, MVAA has collaborated to offer veterans an online tool to screen for mental health concerns such as depression, bipolar, post-traumatic stress, anxiety, alcohol and drug abuse and eating disorders.

In conjunction with Screening for Mental Health, a nonprofit organization providing innovative mental health and substance abuse resources, MVAA created the free online mental health and substance abuse screening tool in October. Encouraging veterans to get a “checkup from your neck up,” the anonymous online screening is available 24/7.

“Mental health is key to overall health, and MVAA wants to make sure all Michigan veterans have the tools they need to care for themselves both mentally and physically,” MVAA Director James Robert Redford said. “With this online tool, veterans can complete a quick and easy mental health screening and get the help and information they need when necessary.”

The screening begins by asking veterans to select a statement that best fits how they have been thinking or behaving recently. Based on the first response, veterans then answer a brief set of questions about themselves and how they are feeling. The survey ends with general explanations about their moods and behaviors as well as available mental health care support and where to find care closest to them.

The majority of veterans who used the mental health screening tool between October 1, 2015 and April 30 were aged 65-74 (25 percent), 25-34 (20 percent) and 35-44 (19 percent). Seventy-seven percent of all veterans who went through the screening were male.

Forty-three percent of participants served Post-9/11 and 35 percent served during the Vietnam War era.

In an effort to promote the online mental health and substance abuse screening tool, MVAA created business cards for benefits counselors and Veterans Treatment Court personnel to distribute to local veterans and their families. The card lists the screening tool website in addition to the veterans crisis line phone number.

Benefits counselors who would like additional business cards for the mental health screening tool are encouraged to call 800-MICH-VET (800-642-4838).

Veterans can find their nearest benefits counselor by visiting MichiganVeterans.com. To take the online survey, go to MichiganVeterans.com/Mental-Health-Screening.