One of the biggest challenges of providing mental health treatment to Clarksville’s veteran population, says Carol Cherich, founder of CCherish Counseling & Consulting in the Sango area of Clarksville, Tenn., is the fact that demand for military-specific mental health and addiction treatment exceeds the local supply.
“I work with the military, both the active duty and the veteran population, and there is a shortage of providers and services, especially on the outpatient level,” Cherich said. “There’s definitely a need. A lot of our soldiers and veterans have medical issues.”
Mental health issues and addiction tend to go hand in hand, particularly among veterans and those currently serving in a military capacity. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that as many as two out of ten vets living with post-traumatic stress disorder, otherwise known as PTSD, also have a substance use disorder. Using drugs and alcohol to counteract PTSD symptoms can worsen these symptoms by interrupting sleep patterns and increasing risk-taking behavior.
Cherich, who spent three years in the US Army as a medical combat medic, remarked on the connection between post-traumatic stress disorder and addiction—resulting in a dymanic known in the medical community as “co-occurring disorders”—and about the process of working to recognize that connection in a client.
“As a clinician licensed in both mental health and addiction treatment, I see a lot of co-occurring disorders among veterans,” she said. “In most cases, it takes more than just one to two client visits to find out what’s going on. There’s a question of do they trust you, will they let you in. It takes a licensed professional to discern what the issues are.”
Unfortunately, outside forces can make it difficult for veterans to realize when they need help.
“For a long time, the attitude of the Army is, ‘If we wanted you to have a wife, we would have issued you one,’” Cherich said. “I think depression, anxiety, and stress is underestimated in our society, and the impact of being in the military has a big impact on the family, from problem-solving and coping issues to financial issues. Oftentimes, the veterans’ family members don’t fully understand what’s going on. That only increases the stress.”
CCherish Counseling & Consulting firm is credentialed in mental health and addiction treatment services in Tennessee and Kentucky. Dr. Cherich’s program offers mental health evaluations and substance use assessments. Other services include individual and group therapy, trauma therapy, and couples treatment.
The Symptoms of PTSD
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms normally start soon after a traumatic or life-threatening event, such as a brush with death or an involvement in or witnessing of an of violence. Then again, symptoms may not appear until months or even years afterwards. They also may come and go over many years.
There are four main types of PTSD symptoms, though tach person experiences symptoms in his or her own way. These include:
- Reliving or re-experiencing the event. This is called a flashback. Traumatic memories and nightmares can also occur
- Avoiding situations that remind you of the event
- Having more negative beliefs and feelings in general. There may be more guilt and shame or, a disinterest in activities once found enjoyable
- Feeling jittery, or always alert and on the lookout for danger
- Feelings of hopelessness, shame, or despair
- Depression or anxiety
- Drinking or drug problems
- Physical symptoms or chronic pain
- Employment problems
- Relationship problems