Supporting those who served – during the holidays and all year round

Veterans Day is over. Military Family Appreciation Month has passed. How do we keep showing support for veterans and military families into the holiday season and beyond?

Military families have tremendous strength, but they can also face unique stressors during the holiday season. While for many people, this time of year means joy, celebration, and togetherness, service members and their families may be apart because of deployments. Many veterans and their families may be trying to transition back to civilian life.

Since 2002, more than 2.6 million U.S. military personnel have become veterans with nearly half experiencing mental health issues, including post-traumatic stress, struggles with substance use, depression and grief. As a psychologist and the director of the Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at the University of Pennsylvania, I am honored to work every day to support veterans and their families with the mental health care and support they deserve.

Unfortunately, a common theme that my fellow clinicians and I hear from veterans is that they don’t always feel that same support from their surrounding community. Although more than 2.6 million new veterans since 2002, might seem like a large number, it is actually less than 1 percent of the U.S. population—creating a potential gap between veterans and the civilian population that can lead to unfamiliarity with the military family experience. In fact, 55 percent of veterans report feeling disconnected from civilian life. So what can we do?

During the holidays, and every day, even small gestures can go a long way to bridge that divide and show our military personnel, veterans and their families that their service and sacrifices are valued.

Read the full op-ed on Philly Voice >>

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