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Why Some Veterans Might Dodge Alerting Mental Health Issues To VA

Local veterans shared their experiences at a mental health summit.

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2014 Veterans Mental Health Summit at St. Thomas University
T’Liza Kiel, a Texas Army National Guard veteran, speaks at the 2014 Veterans Mental Health Summit at St. Thomas University.

When T’Liza Kiel finished her tour of duty in Iraq, all she wanted to do was get home to her family. But first, she had to answer some tough questions in a mental health screening. Would she abuse alcohol or drugs? Did she have any suicidal thoughts?

“It’s not saying that every veteran does this, but it’s not uncommon to say what you need to say so that you can get home,” she said.

That screening is part of a medical evaluation veterans undergo before returning stateside.

Kiel says many vets don’t seek the treatment they need, because getting sent to the hospital would delay their return home.

She says it took her a few years to seek mental health support. And joining veterans peer groups eased her transition back to civilian life.

“One of our warrior ethos is to be trained to be proficient in our warrior tasks and skills,” Kiel said. “When you’re in survival mode and you come straight from a deployment, you want to do what you have to do to provide for your family.”

Rebecca Lancaster is a clinical psychologist at the Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Houston. She says the recent scandal at the VA has her concerned.

“My fear is that it’s going to prohibit veterans from seeking out the help that they need,” she said. “We really want to reiterate that we are here, and we do welcome veterans and that we want to serve you.”

Houston-area veterans can search for resources by visiting the local VA website

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