Delegate David Walker – December 11th, 2013
A recent report found West Virginia has the highest rate of overdose deaths in the country. The Veterans Affairs medical centers in Beckley and Huntington prescribed power painkillers at some of the highest rates in the nation during the past decade, according to a different report.
During the November meeting of the Select Committee on Veteran Affairs, the committee was told that there are roughly 170,000 veterans in West Virginia, giving the state one of the highest veteran populations in the country. Sadly, West Virginia veterans at the highest risk of committing suicide are least likely to seek medical or mental health care, according to data presented in November to a legislative committee.
The committee heard a presentation from West Virginia University professor Joseph Scotti, who also runs WHOLE Veterans, an organization aiming to help veterans’ successful transition back into civilian life.
The data presented to the committee was information gathered from a 2012 survey of more than 1,200 West Virginia veterans.
According to the survey, many veterans said they couldn’t make themselves get help, didn’t think others would understand or didn’t think the treatment would help anyway. Similar stigmas surrounding treatment for mental health issues keep many veterans from getting help.
Released last January, the survey found more than 20 percent of West Virginia’s veterans meet the criteria for a suicide risk.
About 40 percent of the state’s veterans meet the criteria for depression and 25 percent meet the criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder. Veterans suffering from depression or PTSD are far more likely to commit suicide than those who do not, according to data from the survey.
While these ratios aren’t unique just to the veteran population, veterans suffer from these mental health issues at a far higher rate than the general public.
The survey also shows nearly a quarter of West Virginia veterans suffering from depression or PTSD who did not seek medical treatment did so because they couldn’t make themselves get treatment. Almost 20 percent of those veterans cited the same reason for not seeking mental health care.
Other common reasons veterans suffering from these issues did not seek medical or mental health treatment include: not able to afford treatment; not able to take time away from work; bad experiences with other providers; others have greater need; and others will think the person is weak for seeking help.
Veterans suffering from these mental health issues who are a high risk for suicide most often cited some of these reasons for not getting help, the survey showed.
This was the first time that US lawmakers saw a breakdown of reasons why veterans don’t get help from the information in the survey.
If you should have any questions or comments regarding any issues or bills before the legislature please feel free to contact me. To write me, my address is Delegate David Walker, State Capitol, Building 1, Room 203-E, Charleston, WV 25305. Or you may call me at (304) 340-3135. I encourage all my constituents to remain active and become part of the legislative process.