Veterans' mental health issues last longer than just Veterans Day

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MARION COUNTY, W.Va (WDTV) — Veterans Day celebrates those who have served, but an underlying issue within the veteran community will still be alive across the nation after the sun sets.

West Virginia is home to over 100,000 veterans

"We've got to reach our hand out all the time. You can't just do it on today," said Ed Kirby, commander of the Marion County Veteran Council.

According to researchers at Syracuse University, over the course of the 2010-2011 year, over 1,000,000 veterans were diagnosed with either depression, PTSD, substance abuse, anxiety disorder, or a serious mental illness.

According to the Rand Corporation, just half of those who need treatment actually seek it.

West Virginia is home to over 100,000 veterans and according to Dr. Jude Black of Appalachian Life Enrichment Counseling Center, therapy is never a veteran's first step.

"We are never their first go-to, ever. Because they are taught that if they seek mental health, it puts a red flag in their folder and it stops them from being promoted," said Dr. Black.

If a veteran does not feel comfortable reaching out to mental health professionals, local veterans recommend reaching out to someone else that has served.

"If you are having a problem that day, he's maybe also been through that same thing," said Jack Toothman, commander of VFW Post 629.

According to Toothman, there are many resources available to veterans that are struggling.

"There's a veteran's readjustment center down in Morgantown. You can go to your VA hospital," said Toothman.

Leaders also say that the issues veterans face need to be in the public's mind more often than just today.

"We need to take these veterans hand-in-hand. If they need to go some place, we need to take them," said Kirby.

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