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Veterans Mental Health in Colorado Springs

Veterans Mental Health in Colorado Springs

Colorado Springs is a natural home to a large population of military veterans. But it’s not secret that our vets, and their families, deal with psychological extremes the likes of which many of us can’t understand. And yet, there’s not many of us who don’t know a vet. I count myself fortunate to have two good friends, and both parents among them. So on this Veterans Day, if you’re a vet and you’re looking to get better or you’re already suffering from the effects of a mental illness please don’t be afraid to reach out. It is your entitlement, and your empowerment to do so. There are programs that are tailored to the needs of military veterans and provide them with support and the treatment they need. This article will discuss a few programs available as well as some general information about what our Vets go through.

Acknowledging our Military Veterans

Mental health is a vital issue for military veterans, and Colorado Springs could be described as one of America’s epicenters. Mental illness has a high mortality rate, and the disease can kill its victim. Almost every veteran has a loved one who has committed suicide or battled mental illness. A man named David Conley returned from the military in 1989 with mortal baggage and struggled with drugs and crime. Eventually, he landed in jail. He spent six years in prison. After his release, he struggled to find a job. However, he now works as a peer support specialist for the Colorado Springs Department of Veterans Affairs. He was lucky and had a good support system. Mental illness was heavily stigmatized during that time.

Increasing access to mental health care for military personnel is one of the key steps in addressing the issue. The military offers some of the most advanced programs in the country, and many of these innovative programs are available to Fort Carson’s 25,000 soldiers. Moreover, mental health care providers are now embedded within military units and commanders understand that the psychological health of their team is their responsibility.

Veterans Mental Health Statistics

Compared with the population at large, Colorado Springs veterans are more likely to experience mental health problems if nothing else, but due to the heavy number of stationed, or retired veterans. Veteran mental health diagnoses have continued to increase since the start of the Iraq War. Of course this is because a reduction in stigma and vets seeking services have increased. But still, veterans were more likely to develop substance abuse disorders or suffer relapses (Betancourt et al., 2022). This may suggest that early targeted interventions can prevent mental health problems from becoming chronic.

Military Veterans in Colorado Springs

For military veterans who need mental health services, Colorado Springs has many places that offer treatment. Mental health clinics are often staffed by veterans or people with military experience. Licensed therapists are often available to treat patients. Many organizations also offer group therapy, outdoor programs, and job placement assistance. Veterans can contact these organizations to find out more information or to make a donation. They can also participate in events hosted by the local community for veterans and their families.

Those in need of 24-hour medical care can receive treatment in an inpatient psychiatric facility. This treatment is best for those who are in crisis, and may include medically assisted detox. Evidence-based therapies used in the treatment process may include expressive and cognitive therapy, wellness education, uniform-specific treatment enhancements, and recreational therapy. A therapist will work with the Veteran to design a treatment plan that best suits the Veteran’s unique needs.

That said, Colorado is in a mental health crisis to begin with. We are far below the average when it comes to per capita therapists, and the quality of mental health. Make no mistake, the social workers, and therapists that are here are busting their cognitive booties, but they are overworked, understaffed, and underpaid. Much like physicians in this country, they are becoming burnt-out. Burnout among mental providers is very common to begin with, and our state suffers more than most.

Veterans Mental Health Services

Veterans seeking mental health services are often faced with bureaucracy and confusion. The new goal of the Veterans Affairs (VA) is to make mental illness more accessible and less stigmatizing. This is a goal that seems to be shared in other avenues including social media (finally). This includes tightening ties with the VA and transitioning to electronic medical records. Those who seek mental health services in Colorado Springs should have no worries, though: the Mt. Carmel Veterans Center is dedicated to providing free or low-cost mental health services to local veterans. We were lucky to meet some of their staff this past weekend at the Women’s Expo at the Penrose Norris Event Center. They are great people that desperately want to be there for our veterans. One way to help is by monetary donation, which you can do here. This money goes toward services such as health, wellness, transition services, and employment help.

Our Aging Veterans Population

Older military veterans are overall, resilient (Karel et al., 2020). But that population is growing. Many veterans have had multiple deployments and have lived in environments for significant amounts of time when hyper-vigilance is the requirement simply for survival. But the randomness of these environments would shake many of us to the core, yet they do it day in, and day out. Whether our vets predate the Iraqi War, or the ones who have served after, or serve today, these men and women sacrifice so much for us. So today, let this article serve as a reminder to continue working to make acclimation back into society for our vets a priority. More funded studies. Better pay for behavioral health professionals. More media attention. Happy Veterans Day, America!


Christian A Betancourt, MHA, MSC, USN, Panagiota Kitsantas, PhD, Deborah G Goldberg, PhD, Beth A Hawks, PhD, MSC, USN, Substance Use Relapse Among Veterans at Termination of Treatment for Substance Use Disorders, Military Medicine, Volume 187, Issue 11-12, November-December 2022, Pages e1422–e1431, https://doi.org/10.1093/milmed/usab280

Michele J. Karel, Laura O. Wray, Geri Adler, Alisa O’ Riley Hannum, Katherine Luci, Laura A. Brady & Marsden H. McGuire (2022) Mental Health Needs of Aging Veterans: Recent Evidence and Clinical Recommendations, Clinical Gerontologist, 45:2, 252-271, DOI: 10.1080/07317115.2020.1716910

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