Military service and brain health: Help for Iowa veterans

Since 1919, Americans from coast to coast have observed Nov. 11 as Veterans Day.

Iowa has a long and storied history of stepping up to protect and serve. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates nearly 200,000 veterans live in Iowa, spanning the spectrum of ages, races, and branches of service. There’s a strong likelihood you or someone you know has a connection to the military. Ensuring veterans of all ages are cared for includes paying attention to their brain health (mental health).

A Side Effect of Service

Friends, family, advocates, and health providers know that veterans’ sacrifices often include their brain health (mental health). Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an often-cited condition affecting veterans and others who have experienced great and/or frequent trauma, abuse, or disaster in their lives. This can occur at any age and at any point after the trauma occurs.

If you or someone you know has experienced trauma related to military service or otherwise, you may recognize some of the PTSD behaviors. The Mayo Clinic classifies a variety of symptoms into broader categories:

  • Intrusive memories (memories, flashbacks, dreams/nightmares, physical reaction to the memory).
  • Avoidance (avoiding conversation, thought, activities, and places reminiscent of the event)
  • Negative changes in thinking and mood (negative self-thought, feeling hopeless, detachment from close relationships, lack of interest in activities, feeling emotionally numb, suicidal ideations).
  • Changes in physical and emotional reactions (easily startled, always on guard, self-destructive behavior, trouble sleeping, aggressive behavior and outbursts, overwhelming guilt or shame).

Accessing Quality Brain Health Care

As friends and caretakers of those suffering with PTSD, knowing where to turn for trusted and reliable brain health support can be overwhelming. Through the Iowa Mental Health Disability Services (MHDS) Regions, any Iowan in any community has direct access to immediate help. Help is only one call away.

Through our crisis lines, individuals feeling the effects of PTSD or who urgently need someone to talk to about their brain health can connect to one of our experts at any time, day or night. We also have mobile crisis response teams readily available to travel to your home for on-site, face-to-face brain health services.

If you or a family member are struggling with PTSD or experiencing depression or thoughts of suicide, don’t hesitate to reach out. Connect with your local Iowa MHDS Region so that we can get you or your loved one on the right track to brain wellness. Recovery and healing are possible.

  • Forty-six percent of those with PTSD improved within six weeks of beginning psychotherapy.
  • Sixty-two percent of those receiving medication for PTSD show improvement (American Family Physician).

Connect with Iowa MHDS Regions today at, or access immediate crisis services from Your Life Iowa by calling 855-581-8111 or texting 855-895-8398. Veterans and servicemembers can also utilize the Veterans Crisis Line, available 24/7 by phone or chat, by dialing 800-273-8255 and pressing 1.