Job-Search Challenges Hinder Young Veterans’ Reintegration into Civilian Life

Figures on the rate of unemployment among veterans can be confusing as media outlets report only parts of the story. Although the overall unemployment rate among vets has dropped slightly in recent months, a March 2013 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that for U.S. veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the rate is 9.9%, about 2% higher than for the general population. In short, more than 200,000 veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are now unemployed (see the Harvard Kennedy School’s Research Roundup for a summary of recent studies on veterans and unemployment).

As a result of their military service, veterans often face additional obstacles that contribute to difficulties as they look for work. Conditions such as posttraumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, and other physical and mental disorders are common among veterans. A recent study found a direct correlation between depression and unemployment rates among veterans; the good news is that improved depression status (following treatment at VA hospitals) was associated with an increased likelihood of becoming employed.

The U.S. government, the Department of Defense, and other public and private institutions offer some support for veterans seeking civilian careers. For example, the revised G.I. Bill focuses on retraining, and tax credits are now available for employers who hire veterans. However, many veterans’ organizations are calling for more help for young vets transitioning from active duty.

For veterans, active-duty military personnel, and the career counselors who work with them, PAR is developing a new component of the popular Self-Directed Search® (SDS®) designed specifically to support the transition from a military career to a civilian career. Scheduled to release in July, the Veterans and Military Occupations Finder™ matches an individual’s military occupation code with civilian career possibilities. Used with the SDS, this new tool will help veterans explore their interests and capitalize on the skills they developed in the military. Finding a good job is one of the most important factors in a veteran’s successful transition to civilian life, and the Veterans and Military Occupations Finder provides a starting point for that search. To learn more, visit the SDS Web site and look for updates about the release of this new addition to the SDS product line.

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PAR Honors National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day

On May 9, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) held a virtual event in honor of National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day.

The event focused on telling the stories of young adults who have had substance abuse or mental health issues and have developed ways to overcome their challenges. This is an especially important group for SAMHSA to focus on, as nearly 30 percent of young adults ages 16 to 24 years have had a mental health condition in the past year. PAR was a proud sponsor of this important event.

Watch the virtual event, visit SAMHSA online, or comment below to get involved!

May is National Mental Health Awareness Month

In 1949, Mental Health Month was founded to bring attention to the importance of mental health issues in America.

President Barack Obama issued a decree on April 30 in honor of this month. He stressed the idea that people should reach out if they feel they are in need of help. “For many, getting help starts with a conversation,” he stated. “People who believe they may be suffering from a mental health condition should talk about it with someone they trust and consult a health care provider. As a nation, it is up to all of us to know the signs of mental health issues and lend a hand to those who are struggling. Shame and stigma too often leave people feeling like there is no place to turn. We need to make sure they know that asking for help is not a sign of weakness — it is a sign of strength.”

Furthermore, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius released a statement emphasizing how everyone has a role in building awareness. “All of us – including teachers, parents, neighbors, and friends – have a role to play in helping to increase awareness and breaking down the stigma around mental health. Now is the time to bring conversations about mental health into school auditoriums, community centers, houses of worship, and kitchen tables across the country. Together, we can bring mental illness out of the shadows.”

For more information on how you can build awareness in your community and participate in National Mental Health Month, visit Mental Health America.

How are you honoring Mental Health Awareness Month?

Are Insurance Companies Wasting Your Time?

A million hours a year are being spent waiting for approval from insurance companies before doctors can hospitalize suicidal or mentally ill patients, according to the Annals of Emergency Medicine.

Unlike medical emergencies, psychiatric emergencies require permission from a patient’s insurance company before an individual can be admitted. Dr. Amy Funkenstein, a child and adolescent psychiatry resident at Brown University, coauthored the study that produced this number after becoming increasingly frustrated with the amount of time she was spending on the insurance approval process. The study found that the approval process takes 38 minutes per patient on average – meaning that the 1.6 million psychiatric admissions per year translate into 1 million hours of time described by Dr. Funkenstein as “wasted.” Although half of the insurance approvals were obtained in less than 20 minutes, 10 percent of authorizations took longer than one hour, and one authorization took five hours. The patients in need of admittance most commonly presented with suicidal ideation, though a few were diagnosed as being homicidal.

Despite the amount of time spent on the authorization process, very few cases are being denied (just one case of the 53 included in this study was not authorized by the insurance company). The study evaluated a sample of 53 patients at the Cambridge Health Alliance Psychiatric Emergency Department in Massachusetts over a three-month period.