BEE Heard: Warrior veterans and mental health

SAMHSA Native Connections

Through out Native American communities and tribes, our warrior veterans are held in great esteem and honor. Before we became citizens of this country, our warriors protected our lands, food, and our people. They were tasked with both providing and protecting their people many of the times. However, times have changed, and we’ve had to adapt to a new way of life. Our warriors had to find a new way to follow their path and destiny.

Our military veterans have experienced many similar things our ancestor warriors did, but there’s a difference in how they cleanse, protect and return to civilian life now. In the past, many of our spiritual leaders would perform ceremonies on the warriors before and after their journey so they would be okay. These ceremonies were performed to protect that individual (physically and mentally), prepare them for the battle ahead of them, and to also help them after returning from battle.

Today, these ceremonies may look different from those that were performed by our ancestors and some current veterans may not have had any ceremonies performed before or after their service. But the need is still there. The need for protection, for assistance from our creator, for cleansing and for blessings, and for reconnection. All of these are key and vital to our warrior’s mental health. So how can we help our veterans with all of this?  We can recognize them, talk to them, include them, and help them if they ask for help.

Mental Health for Veterans

According to a 2014 study in JAMA Psychiatry, nearly one in four active duty members showed signs of a mental health condition. Our Native veterans can experience multiple mental health and physical health concerns, which can create a difficult battle for them to adjust to civilian life. Two common examples of some mental health concerns during or after serving in the military are: Depression and PTSD.

Depression is a common and serious condition that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. Fortunately, it is also treatable. Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease a person’s ability to function at work and at home.

Symptoms include:

  • Feeling sad or having a depressed mood.
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed.
  • Changes in appetite –  weight gain or loss unrelated to dieting.
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much.
  • Loss of energy or increased fatigue.
  • Increase in purposeless physical activity (e.g., hand-wiggling or pacing) or slowed movements and speech (actions observable by others).
  • Feeling worthless or guilty.
  • Difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions.
  • Thoughts of suicide.

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, a serious accident, a terrorist act, war/combat, rape or other violent personal assault.

PTSD has been known by many names in the past, such as “shell shock” during the years of World War I and “combat fatigue” after World War II. But PTSD does not just happen to combat veterans. PTSD can occur in all people, in people of any ethnicity, nationality or culture, and any age. PTSD affects approximately 3.5 percent of U.S. adults, and an estimated one in 11 people will be diagnosed with PTSD in their lifetime. Women are twice as likely as men to have PTSD.

PTSD Symptoms include:

Intrusive thoughts such as repeated, involuntary memories, distressing dreams, or “flashbacks” of the traumatic event. Flashbacks may be so vivid that people feel they are re-living the traumatic experience or seeing it before their eyes.

Avoiding reminders of the traumatic event, including avoiding people, places, activities, objects and situations that bring on distressing memories. People may try to avoid remembering or thinking about the traumatic event. They may resist talking about what happened or how they feel about it.

Negative thoughts and feelings may include ongoing and distorted beliefs about oneself or others (e.g., “I am bad,” “No one can be trusted”); ongoing fear, horror, anger, guilt or shame, decreased interest in activities previously enjoyed, or feeling detached or estranged from others.

Arousal and reactive symptoms may include being irritable and having angry outbursts, behaving recklessly or in a self-destructive way, being easily startled, or having problems concentrating or sleeping.

Veteran assistance and support

  • Veteran’s Outreach Center of La Plata County 970-426-4499
  • Farmington VA Clinic 505-326-4382

If you are a Veteran having thoughts of suicide – or you’re concerned about one – free, confidential support is available 24/7. Call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and press 1, text to 838255, or chat online at

The Department of Defense sponsors coaching and support at In Transition (1-800-424-7877). Medical professionals can help you come out of this transition stronger than before.

Want to help and be a part of the change?

Looking for community members and youth to join the Prevention Coalition tasked to reduce youth substance usage, eliminate mental health stigma and start the discussion around suicide and prevention.

Upcoming Prevention Coalition Meetings

Until further notice no meetings are being scheduled. Contact Precious Collins, Native Connections Program Coordinator for more information 970-563-2487.

Upcoming Trainings

FREE online Suicide Prevention Training- Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) for Southern Ute Tribe Employees and for Southern Ute Tribal Members. Let’s all learn the warning signs and what to do if someone is experiencing a crisis. Please contact Precious Collins at 970-306-8131 or email to sign up.

Contact us at Southern Ute Behavioral Health Division 970-563-4581.


  • So. Ute Health Center: Behavior Health 69 Capote Dr., Ignacio, CO, 970-563-4581. For local Native Americans. Call to schedule a counseling appointment.
  • So. Ute Social Services: 116 Capote Dr., Ignacio, CO, 970-563-2331 for local Native Americans needing assistance with child welfare needs and family support.
  • St. Ignatius Catholic Church: Pastor Cesar Arras, 14826 CO-172, Ignacio, CO 970-563-4241.
  • Ignacio Community Church: Pastor Randall Haynes 405 Browning Ave., Ignacio, CO (currently located inside ELHI), 970-759-3633.
  • Second Wind Fund of the Four Corners: Believes that every child and youth at risk of suicide should have access to the mental health treatment they need. We match children and youth at risk for suicide with licensed therapists in their communities, 720-962-0706.
  • Women’s Resource Center: Creates personal, social and professional growth opportunities for all women in La Plata County, 970-247-1242.


  • Colorado Crisis Line: 844-493-8255 or Text “TALK” to 38255. You’ll immediately be put in contact with a trained counselor, ready to text with you about anything.
  • The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Has both an online chat and 24/7 phone line at 1-800-273-8255 if you are thinking of suicide or need help for a loved one.
  • The Trevor Project: Seeks to serve LGBT youth, has a 24/7 suicide prevention line at 866-488-7386.

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