There are many things that contribute to our quality of life here in Thurston County: where you live or work, what you eat for breakfast, or how much stress you have in your day-to-day life.
It’s common sense that your health affects your quality of life, but it’s also true that your quality of life can affect your health. To improve our quality of life, we can change what we’re eating, where we’re living, or even where we work. But for many, those changes are difficult; for others, such as our military veterans, there are unique hurdles that can be holding them back.
According to the National Homeless Veteran Coalition, nearly 200,000 American veterans face this reality every year. Military service members may have been away from home for long stretches of time. They may be dealing with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, pain or depression. There may be injuries (visible or not visible) they have to overcome. This is all on top of the stress of navigating health care, finances and family life.
But there are tools and programs in Thurston County that are designed to help veterans address these issues, and get the support they need.
Finding work can be a major hurdle for veterans, and one that affects all areas of their lives, including their health. Service members entering the job market after serving with distinction and honor and carrying out their missions regardless of the circumstances often find it difficult to translate their skillset into the civilian equivalent. Many feel they have to re-invent themselves. Their skills, although sharp, are hard to define to a new employer. They may need to find a new industry, learn new jargon, or even move to a new place. Worse, they may have to start at a near entry-level positions.
Transitioning out of the military can be the hardest mission that a service member will have to endure. In those circumstances, stress and depression may become issues, and veterans may feel alone and isolated. The stress it causes resonates through the entire family, straining relationships.
But there are numerous programs to help veterans make this transition as smooth as possible while maintaining their dignity in the process. While it’s true that the civilian world lacks machine gunners and nuclear weapons technicians, many managers are seeking leadership, initiative and motivation in their workers. Luckily for us, there is a deluge of veterans with these intangible qualities seeking employment each day. Both veterans and civilian managers can benefit greatly by simply learning to speak a similar language.
There are tools, and people, that can help. Veterans looking to find a new job can use a “skills translator tool” to help reframe their experience in a way civilian employers will understand. Titles such as “Squad Leader” and “Section Chief” can be retooled to highlight leadership qualities, for example, and provide an understanding of the responsibilities that are embedded in those unfamiliar titles.
Among the resources:
National Center for PTSD: https://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/types/war/index.asp
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs resource locator: https://maketheconnection.net/resources
Veterans Administration military skills translator: https://www.vets.gov/employment/job-seekers/skills-translator
Lacey Veterans Services Hub: https://www.laceyveteranshub.org/
Veterans have worked diligently for their country around the globe. With the right tools and resources, we can support veterans re-integrating to civilian society and help them attain the quality of life they are seeking.
Reach Dr. Rachel C. Wood, health officer for Thurston and Lewis counties, at 360-867-2501, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @ThurstonHealth on Twitter.