Coming home after discharge from military service in one of the six branches of the U.S. Armed Forces (Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, and Space Force), some veterans may be at a loss to know what jobs and careers are available and a good fit with their experience. Often, vets choose to serve in high-stress jobs as police officers and first responders—but there are other options. For example, in light of the unique mental health issues so many active-duty members have experienced, one promising avenue to explore could be career and educational opportunities in the mental health field. Indeed, military mental health jobs and mental health careers for veterans can be both rewarding, fulfilling, and an ideal transition from the armed forces.
How Mental Health Needs in the Armed Forces Are Now Less Stigmatized
According to data projections from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), there are 19.5 million living veterans in America in 2019. The National Center for PTSD says that the number of veterans who have PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) varies depending on the service area during which they were in the military. In any given year, between 11-20 percent of veterans of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom have PTSD. For Gulf War veterans, it’s about 12 percent. Some 15 percent of veterans of the Vietnam war have PTSD in any given year, while the statistic is 30 percent for lifetime experience of PTSD for these vets.
Depression and suicide also rank high among the mental health issues experienced by veterans. Survey results from a large national survey referenced on the National Center for PTSD website state that those with PTSD are three to five times more likely to have depression than those without PTSD. Research of veterans with PTSD, says the National Center for PTSD, shows that the strongest link to suicide attempts and thoughts of self-harm relates to combat-related guilt.
Raising awareness about mental illness and veterans is a priority for the VA, as it seeks to inform and educate society about mental illness and the needs of those who suffer from it, and to promote contact with those who have a mental illness to help destigmatize it. Yet, it’s only recently that the stigma associated with having mental health disorders and problems with mental health following military service began to decline.
This is an encouraging sign, though continued education and awareness of the mental health needs of those who’ve served (and continue to serve) in the Armed Forces is vital, just as it is with every member of society. For veterans, specifically, feeling the confidence of being able to ask for help for depression, PTSD, or substance abuse—without fear of being stigmatized or suffering other reprisals—is an important step towards getting treatment and overcoming such debilitating mental health issues. Jobs that provide much-needed assistance to veterans with these sorts of needs are increasingly important and a viable career path. Often, too, those most qualified to fill these jobs are vets who have a shared vocabulary and experience.
Why Mental Health Care/Addiction Treatment is an Ideal Transition for Veterans
With PTSD, depression, and substance abuse being the most common issues veterans seek treatment for following active duty, vets who’ve already been in treatment are often most familiar with the life-changing difference professional treatment can make. Being able to find hope and identify and work towards treatment and recovery goals is a crucial part of rebuilding self-esteem and looking beyond problems to find workable solutions—that many veterans discover during treatment. As such, for those interested in jobs for veterans, studying for and seeking mental health jobs and careers may be a natural transition from active treatment to recovery post-treatment.
How You Have the Opportunity to Help Other Veterans
One of the tenets of recovery self-help groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and others is being of service to others. Following the completion of treatment at a facility specializing in addiction and mental health rehab, you are in an excellent position to be able to help other veterans who may now be dealing with those same issues. What worked for you may work well for others now struggling with PTSD, depression, substance abuse, and other mental health issues. Furthermore, you can serve as a trusted advisor, since you’ve been where they are and know exactly what they’re going through. Why not then consider military mental health jobs for veterans along with other potential career opportunities?
Besides, for a vast number of veterans returning to civilian life, it is as if they are starting over again. Whatever job or career you left prior to serving your country, your time in service changed you in ways that are both discernible and intangible. A life that feels full, productive, and meaningful, and that makes a difference in the lives of others, is possible when the focus is on ways to help other veterans find their way. Who better to be an ally than someone who’s been through similar experiences?
Potential Paths for Veterans
As for what jobs for veterans may be included in the broad umbrella of mental health careers for veterans, the list is extensive. According to Mental Health America, there are degree programs that lead to mental health careers where the trained professional can: provide therapy and psychological assessments, but not prescribe medications; or prescribe medication, but not administer therapy. A brief snapshot of a few of those mental health jobs for veterans includes:
Social Worker in Mental Health
A career as a social worker requires a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in social work. To qualify to work as a clinical social worker, a master’s degree in social work is required. A licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) also requires a state license.
Mental Health Counselor
To work as a mental health counselor, someone who can provide counseling for mental health services, individuals must obtain a master’s degree in counseling or a related field. The master’s degree requires first obtaining a bachelor’s degree in either the same field or a related one. Following the completion of the master’s degree and a minimum of supervised hours of work, the graduate can then apply for the appropriate license, with a resulting title of licensed mental health counselor (LMHC).
Some veterans may find a vocation in psychiatry the most appealing. Be prepared to earn first a master’s degree in psychiatry, then go through four years of training in residency, followed by applying for and obtaining the appropriate state license. Although this career path is a lengthier one than other jobs for veterans in the mental health field, it may well be worth all the effort, time, and study required to achieve the goal.
Other potential paths for veterans include:
- Licensed professional counselor (LPC)
- Clinical psychologist
- Certified alcohol and drug abuse counselor
- Nursing careers
- Master’s level psychiatric nurse practitioner
- Marital and family therapist
- Master’s level family nurse practitioner
- Peer specialist
- Pastoral counselor
- Psychiatric or mental health nurse practitioner
- Careers in neuroscience
How We’re the Expert, We Work with Students and Provide a Scholarship
At FHE Health, we’re proud to offer our “Hope for Healing scholarship. In this campaign, we provide scholarship funds for undergraduate and graduate (masters or doctorate) students to pursue degree programs. While the scholarship is not specific to veterans, we strongly encourage veterans to apply. After all, FHE Health is an accredited addiction center with expertise in mental health needs and a specialized treatment track for veterans and other first responders. Providing scholarships and working with students to further their careers in the mental health care and addiction treatment field is a natural extension of those services.
In addition, FHE Health is a teaching institution that is affiliated with several leading universities to help train a new generation of dedicated healthcare workers. Education affiliates include the University of Miami, Barry University, Florida Atlantic, and Florida International Universities. If you’re looking for mental health careers for veterans, perhaps a scholarship from FHE will help you achieve that goal.