Credit: Thinkstock It’s 5:00 a.m. and I type these words. Part of my volunteer work here in Haiti includes supporting disaster relief efforts in response to the devastating damage caused when Hurricane Matthew raked across this impoverished island nation in September 2016. Tens of thousands of people are homeless, and the numbers are increasing by the day.
Whether in Haiti or elsewhere in the world, homelessness can be a catalyst for mental illness. In the United States, reported cases of mental illness among people who are homeless are twice as high as within the general population, according to the American Psychological Association.
In the U.S., meanwhile, a shocking number of military veterans are among those who are both homeless and suffering from various mental illness disorders, addictions, and other ills. “In January 2014, communities across America identified 49,933 homeless veterans during point-in-time counts, which represents 8.6 percent of the total homeless population,” reports the National Alliance to End Homelessness.
“Like the general homeless population, veterans are at a significantly increased risk of homelessness if they have low socioeconomic status, a mental health disorder, and/or a history of substance abuse. Yet, because of veterans’ military service, this population is at higher risk of experiencing traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), both of which have been found to be among the most substantial risk factors for homelessness.”
Recently, I had the honor and privilege of interviewing Noah Galloway, a U.S. Army veteran. He inspired countless people with his dancing skills when he took third place on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars, also known as D.W.T.S. He is currently working with the The Home Depot Foundation to provide homes for our troops.
As noted on NoahGalloway.com, “Just three months into his second tour of duty, Galloway experienced a life-changing injury. On December 19, 2005, Galloway lost his left arm above the elbow and left leg above the knee in an Improvised Explosive Device attack. He was transported to Germany to receive medical treatment, remaining unconscious for five days. Galloway woke up late in the evening on Christmas Eve to learn he lost two of his limbs and sustained severe injuries to his right leg and his jaw.” Today, he is leveraging his newfound recognition - including to his appearance on DWTS to give back to the veteran community.
In his book, Living with No Excuses, Noah shares about his struggle with depression and addiction that experienced after recovering from his injuries. One of his lowest points was spending 10 days in jail for driving under the influence. Worst of all, how lonely and embarrassed he felt about living with depression. He eventually hit a rock bottom and then decided that he wanted to make some real changes in his life, especially for his children.
“With the struggles I went through physically, mentally, and emotionally,” Noah says, “one thing that was key was making sure I had a safe and accessible home in order to make changes and recover.”
Noah is just one example that recovery from mental illness is possible for all veterans. To help support this, it’s important to address the issue of housing for veterans. A safe and comfortable home is a fundamental human need and a human right.
Although there are resources for homeless veterans and their families, navigating them can be difficult and overwhelming. Here are a few:
- The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers local resources that vets can can use as a first step in finding a home. They also provide medical care, counseling, benefits assistance, and other support. Learn more…
- The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development offers guidance, tools, and information for homeless veterans. Learn more…
All of our veterans have sacrificed to ensure their fellow Americans the freedoms that we enjoy today. We owe them more than we can ever repay. In honor of their service, I encourage you to do the following:
Take a selfie with a veteran and upload it to your Twitter or Instagram account with the hashtag -#serviceselfie
Learn more about Noah Galloway
Thank a veteran for their service and sacrifice
Share this article with your friends
Make a donation to the Home Depot Foundation
In the past five years, The Home Depot Foundation, a 501c3 nonprofit, has improved more than 25,000 veterans, working with aging, disabled, and homeless vets around the country. Approximately 35,000 Home Depot® employees served in the military.
How will you support our veterans today?
Mike Veny is one of America’s leading mental health awareness speakers, HealthCentral’s newest social ambassador, and a high energy corporate drumming event facilitator. He delivers educational, engaging, and entertaining presentations to meetings and conferences throughout the world. Learn more and connect with Mike at TransformingStigma.com.