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I am a Veteran




As a veteran, it can be challenging to re-enter civilian life after military service. It can take time to reacclimate to new ways of doing things, and it can even take time to get used to being around family, friends and familiar surroundings again. For veterans who engaged in combat or experienced trauma or injury, like a traumatic brain injury (TBI), that adjustment process can be even more complicated.

It is not uncommon for veterans to experience mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety. In fact, according to a 2014 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association Psychiatry, in comparison to the general civilian population, veterans are 15 times more likely to experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and 5 times more likely to report symptoms of depression. Unfortunately, trauma, anxiety, and depression can also increase a person’s risk for substance use disorder (SUD). In fact, according to a 2019 article in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, the rate of opioid overdose among veterans increased by 50% from 2010 to 2016.

In fact, according to a 2019 article in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, the rate of opioid overdose among veterans increased by 50% from 2010 to 2016.

Signs to Look For

Some of the signs to look for in yourself or a veteran you know that may indicate they are struggling with a SUD include:

  • Increased tolerance or using greater amounts of a substance to feel its effect
  • Inability to stop using a substance even when there are negative consequences
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms from not using a substance

Helpful Tips

Maintaining a strong body and mind can be one way to cope with the impact of military service. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has developed a helpful list of tips and information for veterans and those in active duty. Some of NAMI’s suggestions include:

  1. Reach out to other veterans or veterans’ groups. The Department of Defense also sponsors coaching and support at In Transition: 1-800-424-7877.
  2. Talk to family and friends about your experiences.
  3. Prepare yourself for insensitive questions about your services. If you get a negative response or one you do not agree with, it’s ok to let it go.
  4. Do some research on mental health and transitioning back to civilian life. Real Warriors and After Deployment are great sites.
  5. Take care of yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally. Confidential counselors are available for service members and their families through Military One Source at 1-800-342-9647.
  6. Take time to reconnect with your family and friends.
  7. Recognize that it’s ok and normal to be frustrated while returning to civilian life.


Natick Resources:

The Veterans Services program within the Natick Community Services Department can provide assistance in navigating the complexities of the healthcare system, including finding resources for treatment and recovery from substance use disorder close. Paul Carew, the Director of Veterans Services and ADA Coordinator, can be reached out or 508-647-6545. 

The Natick community is also fortunate to have two SMART (Self-Management and Recovery Training) support group meetings for veterans and their family members. 

“Kids Serve Too” Program

Calling All Military Kids

Kids Serve Too is a new after school club in Natick designed for elementary and middle school kids who have an intimate family member in the military or retired family members.

  • Who:  Kids Serve Too is for kindergarteners through 8th graders. Older people are welcome to help out!
  • Where:  Wilson Middle School
  • When:  October/November to the end of the school year
  • Why:  To help create a bond between Natick and military children. We will have a range of different activities, guest speakers, and enlighten the Natick community about what it’s like to be a military kid.

With more questions or interest, please email both Grace Hartigan and Kim Waldron More information in the flyer below:


Massachusetts Resources:

The Massachusetts Department of Veterans Services advocates on behalf of all the Commonwealth’s veterans and provide them with quality support services and to direct an emergency financial assistance program for those veterans and their dependents who are in need.

Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and the Red Sox Foundation have developed a program called Home Base. Home Base assists post-9/11 veterans, service members, and their families through clinical care, wellness, education and research. Their focus is on “invisible wounds”, such as PTSD, TBI, other mental health concerns, co-occurring substance use disorders, military sexual trauma, family relationship concerns, and other issues related to a veteran’s military service. 


National Resources:

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers a brief, confidential substance use screening tool that can help you determine whether you have symptoms of a SUD. The site also offers other resources, such as finding programs and services, that may be helpful to you or a loved one. It can also help to check out the VA’s list of common challenges and solutions or the MilitaryOneSource database of websites offering assistance with the transition to civilian life.