On Veterans Day, we set aside time to honor all of those who have fought for our country, but our support for these warriors does not end when the day is over. Every year about 200,000 of our country’s servicemen and women return to civilian life after military service. From the moment these veterans begin their transition, they have to tackle the task list of finding employment, meeting new financial obligations, and reestablishing their social support system. The magnitude of these life changes may create mental health struggles along the way. However, they do not have to face everything alone. There are a variety of resources available to help to support our veterans and their families as they navigate the process of transitioning out of the military and adjusting to a full and meaningful civilian life.

Challenges of Transitioning Out of the Military

While the first year of transitioning from military to civilian life may be the most challenging, it is also the most important period in the process. During this time, veterans and their loved ones adjust to their new lifestyle and establish a new normal. To help support each other through this process, keep these common obstacles in mind:  

  • Relating to Others: Those who have never enlisted may not know or understand the lifestyle and challenges military personnel face during and after their service. This can make it difficult to connect and relate with others, leaving our veterans feeling isolated and alone. Though it will be frustrating, patience and continual work towards fostering these relationships from both sides will be rewarding in the long run.
  • Reconnecting with Family: Just as servicemen and women establish a routine while in service, military families have created a routine at home. Remember that it will take time for the whole family to adjust to the new routine and reestablish everyone’s role in the household, but soon it will become the new normal.
  • Joining/Creating a Community: The military is a close-knit community that provides a level of support and camaraderie that is difficult to find in civilian life. However, there are substitutes that can help to recover some of the team spirit that was left behind. By volunteering in the community, coaching a youth’s sports team, or reaching out to local veterans’ organizations, our veterans can regain the feeling of belonging and driving purpose that they may be missing.
  • Returning to Work: Whether it is their first time applying for a civilian job or they are returning to work after service, there will be plenty of adjusting to do. Translating military skills for resume writing may seem difficult, but the leadership, organization, and accountability can be invaluable in the job hunt and adjusting to any changes in their existing job. There are also a variety of resources designed to help veterans find jobs, such as the Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS).
  • Creating Structure: The structure of military life is not commonly present in civilian life. This newfound freedom of strict codes of conduct and the military’s chain of command can lead to the temptation of substance misuse. However, leaving the service does not mean that the basic responsibilities and core values that were instilled during their time in the military should be left behind. Instead, apply these responsibilities and values to create structure within the civilian lifestyle.
  • New Pace of Life: Transitioning to civilian life after the military means a drastic switch in schedules. Adjusting to a new work and family schedule can be overwhelming, but our veterans do not have to do it alone. Friends, family, and other members of their support system should remember to be there to provide support and guidance as they overcome these challenges.

Veteran Mental Health Services

The difficulty of transitioning to civilian life can be amplified for veterans struggling with mental health. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), in 2020, more than half of the veterans with mental illness did not receive the treatment they needed. This lack of treatment not only makes this transition significantly more difficult, but it can result in dangerous and detrimental effects in the long term.

At ZVHC, we are dedicated to helping our servicemen and women and their loved ones with their mental health challenges. Through our veteran services, we offer counseling and treatment to help our veterans and their families with stress management, trigger recognition, and goal planning. Speak with one of our licensed therapists and see how we are here to provide the mental health support to help you through this transition.

Though there are many problems veterans face when returning home, finding mental health support does not have to be one. We are here for you. To learn more about how we can help you or your loved one with transitioning out of the military into civilian life, visit zvhc.org or call 507.289.2089. To all of our veterans, thank you for your service.

If you or a loved one is experiencing a mental health crisis, the Veterans Crisis Line is available 24/7 by dialing 1-800-273-8255 and pressing 1.