Veterans constantly put their well-being on the line for the sake of their families, communities, and country, with themes of sacrifice and service defining their time in any branch of the military. However, in addition to the physical traumas and challenges that veterans face, veterans must also overcome a plethora of emotional turmoils and needs as they transition to civilian life. Anxiety, depression, trauma, substance use, and more can all affect a veteran’s mental health and perspectives of themselves. Left unaddressed, this can even inform self-harm among veterans. Hawaii Island Recovery can help veterans find treatment to address the challenges of their time in military service and explore healing from self-harming thoughts and behaviors.

Forms of Self-Harm Among Veterans

Self-harm is any action taken that either directly and negatively affects a veteran’s physical or mental health or acts in a way that disregards their physical or mental health. Unfortunately, self-harm can be ubiquitous among veterans of the armed forces. However, that doesn’t mean that all veterans will engage in the same self-harming practices. Some common methods of self-harm among veterans include:

  • Cutting at skin
  • Burning
  • Hitting themselves against hard or dangerous surfaces
  • Pulling at hair
  • Intentionally compromise healing, such as through picking at scabs or reopening wounds, burning the same place, etc.

Some veterans also may engage in self-harm not through direct injury to their bodies but instead may act with a disregard for their safety. Increases in risk-taking behaviors such as reckless driving or decisions, substance abuse, mixing substances, or not following prescription medication dosages can all be ways that veterans may engage in self-harm. 

However, to effectively address the effects of self-harm among veterans, it is crucial to understand why veterans may turn to these kinds of behaviors. 

Relapse Prevention Strategies for Sober Veterans
Relapse Prevention Strategies for Sober Veterans

Overcoming addiction as a veteran is difficult, and having established, effective, and comprehensive relapse prevention strategies in veteran life is crucial to avoid re-engaging with drugs or alcohol. For more information on our dedicated veteran programs and unique approach to our Hawaii rehabilitation, or if you have any questions about your next step, call (866) 390-5070.

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The Forces Behind Self-Harm Among Veterans

A mentality of sacrifice instilled throughout military service can make it difficult to reach out for help in overcoming any number of emotional needs or traumatic experiences. Active military personnel are put in a position where they see more potentially traumatic situations than civilian peers, both through experiences on base and while navigating active warzones, while also living in a culture that makes it difficult to reach out for help to overcome the effects of these traumatic experiences. For some, such experiences are a part of this “sacrifice” that is expected of them. 

However, each of these experiences can still have profound effects on veterans, informing challenges such as:

Each of these challenges can be exceptionally difficult to navigate. Guilt, shame, moral injury, and more can all facilitate thoughts of self-harm among veterans, especially if veterans feel guilty about actions taken in the field, acting on orders of a superior officer that they did not agree with, or survivor’s guilt after living through a life-threatening situation where other brothers and sisters in arms did not. 

Feelings of isolation while transitioning between military culture and civilian life can also leave many veterans feeling a lack of understanding or support in overcoming these feelings, increasing the risks of self-blame and self-harm among veterans. Flashbacks to these traumatic events in civilian life can further these feelings, especially while feeling resistant to reaching out for help, resulting in self-destructive behaviors, substance use as a coping mechanism, and even self-harm. 

The Connection Between Substance Use and PTSD in Veterans
The Connection Between Substance Use and PTSD in Veterans

If you or someone you know is a veteran struggling with PTSD and SUD, please call our rehab in Hawaii at (866) 390-5070 for treatment and support today.

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Addressing and Treating Self-Harm and Self-Destructive Behaviors

Identifying self-harm among veterans in loved ones can be difficult, and families and communities may all feel the profound effect of these thoughts. However, treatment is always possible to challenge self-destructive thoughts and beliefs that may inform self-harming behaviors. Hawaii Island Recovery is committed to finding the best approach to healing for veterans, including addressing self-harm in conjunction with the various other experiences and needs that veterans may have for effective healing. 

Engaging in Comprehensive Care

Hawaii Island Recovery and the trauma-informed professionals that make up its staff are committed to truly transformative healing and understand that self-harm among veterans does not develop in isolation. Rather, these behaviors are often connected to a myriad of other challenges that veterans face. Working to address unresolved traumas from life-threatening warzones to on-base to traumas like military sexual trauma is necessary. 

Likewise, addressing the role that addictive substances play in the development of mental health disorders and the additional challenges they present in mental, emotional, and physical healing is also paramount. Dedicated addictionologists are available to address urges and cravings while navigating trauma, anxiety, depression, survivor’s guilt, flashbacks, and much more. 

Lastly, finding a community of veteran peers is crucial to challenge stigmas and empower veterans to open up to receiving support and sympathy while embracing transformative healing. Dedicated veteran treatment programs in Hawaii embrace the power of having peers who understand these challenges on an intimate level and are committed to deconstructing stigmas for personal healing. 

Self-harm is devastating, and even having thoughts of self-harm can indicate the need for professional support before they manifest into truly self-destructive behaviors. Calling to talk to dedicated and trauma-informed professionals about the needs of veterans or concerns about self-harm in a veteran loved one is necessary to address the spiritual, emotional, physical, and mental need for change in effective healing.

Self-harm is devastating, not just to a veteran’s physical health and well-being but also to the daily life of veterans, their mental health, and even their spiritual healing. We at Hawaii island Recovery understand the complicated journey of confronting and overcoming self-harming beliefs and behaviors to create a truly comprehensive approach to change. Addressing addiction, mental health needs, grief, trauma, and more is paramount for veterans, and we take this kind of holistic approach to healing in our treatment programs in Hawaii. From personalizing individualized strategies to engaging in community healing and camaraderie, we empower veterans to challenge self-destructive beliefs through understanding and dedicated physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual healing. Call to speak to us today at (866) 390-5070.