Veterans Advisory Council on Mental Health (VACMH)
The Veterans Advisory Council on Mental Health is a group of military veterans and associates dedicated to defining and addressing mental health issues such as Post traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), and Military Sexual Trauma (MST) that are related to military service. The associates include The National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI), Verity (Sexual trauma Counseling and support), Sonoma County Mental Health Services, Sonoma County Legal Services and other associates.
The objective of the VACMH is to recommend and provide strategies designed to assist veterans and their families dealing with mental issues caused by military service. The VACMH reviews existing information and research and analyzes statistical and anecdotal data related to mental health issues in the veteran community. Using this information, the group develops and initiates actions designed to address and ameliorate potential negative effects on veterans.
An important component of this process is to inform the public at large about the risks associated with mental health issues related to military service. Various behavioral responses to these risk factors are described together with suggestions for appropriate actions others can take to address these situations.
The objective of these strategies is to ease concerns of potential employers, family, and others concerning the perceived risks in hiring and associating with veterans.
Your input is not only welcome, it is necessary to ensure that we address these critical veterans’ mental health issues as best we can.
VACMH meets the first Thursday of each month at 9am until 11:30am at the Santa Rosa Veterans Memorial Building, 1351 Maple Ave, Santa Rosa, CA
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VACMH looks at MST
by Charles Earthman
The Veterans Advisory Council on Mental Health had its monthly meeting on Thursday, May 1, at the Veterans Memorial Building in Santa Rosa. This group is reborn from the original a group formed by NAMI to address veterans mental health issues.
This new group is starting to build an agenda and develop strategies on issues concerning mental health in our veteran community. The group discussed the difficulties in defining PTSD and there was talk of getting information out to the community to help people understand veterans with PTSD. They discussed the public’s perception of veterans with PTSD and how to better educate people about the disorder.
The discussion then turned to Military Sexual Trauma (MST), an often-discussed topic today in the media and in the halls of the US Congress. Amanda Servin from Verity, a Sonoma County rape crisis, trauma and healing center, led the discussion as she acquainted us with several facts and some statistics on MST. The group’s participants agreed that MST referred to sexual assault or repeated threatening sexual harassment that occurred to a veteran while in the military.
This includes any sexual activity where someone is involved against his or her will. Examples include not being able to consent to sexual activities while intoxicated or being physically forced into sexual activities. The veteran may have been pressured into sexual activities because of threats of negative consequences or because of implied faster promotions or better treatment. Other experiences that fall into the category of MST include unwanted sexual touching or grabbing, threatening, offensive remarks about a person’s body, and threatening or unwelcome sexual advances. The effects of MST on veterans’ mental health were discussed and will be revisited on future occasions.
The veterans and associates participating in the VACMH engage in important discussions on community mental health. Their objective is to get information out to families, employers, and the general public concerning the perceived risks in associating with veterans.