Correlation of veteran vocational rehabilitation and improved mental health

It is no secret that veteran vocational rehabilitation helps veterans find jobs. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, its Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) Program rehabilitated more than 8,276 veterans considered to have a “serious” barrier to employment in 2019 (its most recent reporting year). The same year, the VR&E rehabilitated 3,955 veterans considered to have “standard” barriers to employment.

VR&E participants received counseling, job training, college assistance and other resources, and were gainfully employed in a range of occupations — machine trades, construction, sales, agriculture and many others — upon completion of the program.

The benefits of veteran vocational rehabilitation for mental health

This is good news when it comes to mental health in the veteran community, as studies show that employment has positive effects on mental health. “Among individuals with mental health conditions, employment is associated with improvements in a range of non-vocational domains, including quality of life, mental health, physical health, self-esteem, mastery, and social networks,” say the authors of a recent study published in the journal Military Medicine, citing several related studies.

For example, one 2020 study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine shows that, among veterans, employment reduces suicide attempts by 49% and suicidal ideation by 67%. A study related to depression among veterans shows that employment is associated with remission of depression symptoms.

Military Medicine and its cited articles are not the only sources pointing to a positive connection between employment and mental health.

In a 2020 editorial titled “Employment Is a Critical Mental Health Intervention,” published in Epidemiology and Psychiatric Sciences, Robert E. Drake and Michael A. Wallach go so far as to argue that helping patients to find employment should be a standard step in mental health treatment. “Treatment must aim toward more than suppressing symptoms. The opportunity to pursue a meaningful life is a fundamental right. We can easily do better by including supported employment as an essential part of treatment,” they write.

Their claim is supported by several studies, one of which found employment continued to improve mental health and life satisfaction in patients who’d already undergone mental health treatment. Another cited study, conducted on the benefits of supported employment, found that patients experienced fewer psychiatric symptoms while employed.

Valor helps veterans become healthy and hirable

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