Veterans Day Special: Abigail Johnson Interviews with Arkansas PBS about Veterans’ Mental Health
Updated: Feb 23
In honor of Veterans Day on November 11, 2022, the CEO of Johnson Behavioral Health Group, Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Abigail Johnson, took part in Arkansas PBS’ special coverage of “Honor. Service. Duty.: Arkansas Women Veterans.”
The program recognized that women in the military have often been overlooked and undervalued. This is not surprising considering that women are often underrepresented in the military and even more so when it comes to veterans. It is essential to recognize the contributions of women in the military. Even though they are not often celebrated, women have served in the military for centuries. That was why Arkansas PBS aimed to honor the service of all veterans and emphasized women’s role in the military.
Women who serve in the military are not just “the help” or “camp followers” who follow their husbands into war. They are service members, veterans, and patriots. Considering the mental warfare these women have to combat beyond the battlefront, data showed that women veterans are two times more likely to die by suicide.
“In our military population, our veterans, especially females, are experiencing a lot of trauma. Whether it is the things they see and witness, whether in combat, overseas, or the overall military sexual trauma. 10% of our women veteran population is experiencing PTSD. There are many different comorbidities that they’re facing. Still, PTSD is the number one comorbidity that our wome
n veteran population is experiencing,” Johnson stated as she gave insight into the mental health issues of women veterans.
Women who have served in combat zones may experience more stressors and mental health issues than their male counterparts because they are more likely to be victimized by military stigma and sexual assault and harassment by other soldiers or enemy combatants. This can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression.
There has been a concerted effort to recognize women’s contributions to the military. The Department of Veterans Affairs has tried reaching out to female veterans for mental health care and other services. However, some women veterans refuse the efforts due to factors that prevented them from seeking professional help in the beginning.
Johnson proved and said that “our veteran population does experience stigmas and things that can prevent them from seeking help. Whether it’s the overall culture of the military where you have to be tough and strong, or just being that there is a big mental barrier to overcome when it relates to mental health as a whole. If our veteran population delays obtaining help, they experience the risk of living in a hyper-arousal state where they are easily triggered. This often leads to anxiety, panic attacks, irritability, or overall depression. Symptoms often spiral over time. One symptom often leads to four, five, and six, completely changing their overall quality of life.”
In recent years, more attention has been noted on the mental health needs of veterans. One way to support these veterans is through VA-approved mental health service providers who offer a range of services for those with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, substance use disorders, and other conditions.
“If I could tell a female veteran one thing, I want you to know that there is help out here. You do not have to live in this heightened state of constantly living in these nightmares and re-experiencing all of these situations that have traumatized you over and over again. Hear me out; there is help, and you can move past it. All it takes is you reach out; we are here for you.”