Pay special attention to veterans and their mental health during the holidays, doctor says

The holidays are full of emotions, but stress especially can really build up this time of year, and veteran organizations across the country want to remind you to look out for our service men and women during this vulnerable time.

Marine Sgt. Jordan Maynard, a veteran, shared his journey for anyone struggling with loneliness or depression this holiday season.

"I wanted to go to the military really all my life since I was a kid," he explained. He joined in 2005 and was deployed to Afghanistan twice before being struck by an explosive device.

Without his family and the military nonprofit Semper Fi & America's Fund, he says he would be in a much different situation.

"My case manager is one of the first faces I remember seeing, and she's still with me to this day," he said, adding, "I don't think my life would be the same without them. I feel like they're kind of a light in the dark at times, and they have taken me out or some pretty dark places."

The number of U.S. military suicides jumped by 15% last year.

The holidays can be the most challenging time of the year, especially for those suffering from PTSD, as well as mental and physical challenges.

Dr. David Oslin says, "Veterans are more likely to die from suicide than the non-veterans and that's unfortunate. The numbers are about 17 a day."

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers a wide range of services to make sure no veteran is left behind.

"When you have veterans in the family, it's just to be mindful of this time for them. It could be a great time of joy but also a great time of sorrow. So looking for changes in behavior or changes in mood, that might signal an issue. Certainly look for overindulgence in substances during this time and the dangers that that can bring on," Oslin said.

Maynard advises, "Just be patient. Recover. Recovery is slow. Just be patient and don't lose motivation."

If you or a loved one is feeling distressed, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The crisis center provides free and confidential emotional support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to civilians and veterans. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Or text HOME to 741-741 (Crisis Text Line).

Resources for Veterans and Supporters

  • Veterans Crisis Line: A free, anonymous, confidential resource available to Veterans in crisis, as well as concerned family members and friends. Call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, text to 838255, or chat at
  • VA Resource Locator: This tool can help Veterans find local mental health and suicide prevention resources, including their local suicide prevention coordinator.
  • VA S.A.V.E. Training: Training designed to teach anyone who interacts with Veterans how to recognize warning signs of crisis and what to do to help a Veteran who may be at risk.
  • Make the Connection: VA’s premier mental health literacy and anti-stigma website highlights Veterans’ real, inspiring stories of recovery and connects Veterans and their family members and friends with local resources.
  • VA Mental Health: VA’s repository of mental health resources, information, and data materials.
  • Resources for Family Members and Friends: Encourage caregivers and loved ones to explore VA’s resources for family members and friends to learn more about different kinds of mental health challenges, how they are treated and how loved ones can help while learning tools to keep strong themselves.

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