The History of Veterans Day
On November 11, 1918, at 11 a.m. the U.S. celebrated the end of World War I, and on the same day in 1921 the first unknown U.S. soldier from World War I was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. The day became known as Armistice Day officially in 1926 and was recognized as a national holiday in 1938¹.
Had World War I been “the war to end all wars” as hoped, November 11 might still have been named Armistice Day, but as that was not the case, the day was renamed to honor the fallen soldiers in the following wars. Veterans Day officially received its name in 1954 in a bill signed by former President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Mental Health for Military Veterans
Throughout the decades, mental health awareness has increased in the public eye, especially concerning military service members and veterans. Throughout their military service, veterans often experienced high levels of trauma while exposed to dangerous and high-stakes conditions. Experiences such as combat and long periods of deployment away from family members can result in temporary or long-term effects on a person’s mental health².
While every person’s experiences and reactions to their environments vary, veterans report having similar struggles with their mental health related to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Around 20 million veterans are diagnosed with depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Some other common health challenges include obsessive-compulsive disorder, suicidal thoughts, substance abuse, and chronic pain³.
Common symptoms of PTSD are insomnia, irritability, aggressive behavior and general behavioral changes, nightmares, unwanted memories, avoidance of triggers, and clinical depression.
These mental health conditions were referred to as “shell shock” and “combat fatigue” in previous generations where mental health topics were regarded as taboo. Due to the previous stigma attached to mental health topics, mental health care for military members was often neglected, which further worsened the impact on past and present veterans².
Chronic mental health diagnoses are also common in veterans, with many patients experiencing severe depression, treatment-resistant depression, and major depressive disorder.
Mental Health Issues related to Traumatic Brain Injuries and Neurodegenerative Diseases
Military service-related traumas also present more health challenges later in life in the form of neurodegenerative diseases when traumatic brain injuries occur during their service. Between 2000 to 2021, more than 450,000 military personnel were diagnosed with traumatic brain injury⁴.
TBIs are common among veterans due to the frequency of explosive blasts during their service. Veterans often face common neurodegenerative diseases later in life including chronic traumatic encephalopathy and different forms of Dementia such as Alzheimer’s.
Chronic traumatic encephalopathy is brain degeneration linked to repetitive trauma to the brain. There are no specific symptoms associated with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, however, some symptoms may include difficulty with cognition, emotions, and executive function. Symptoms of chronic traumatic encephalopathy can develop anywhere from a few years to decades after a head injury⁵.
Dementia is a general umbrella term for the decline in the ability to recall memories and events, form cohesive thoughts, or make decisions. These impairments heavily impact a person’s ability to participate in everyday activities and function without external help.
Alzheimer’s disease is a form of Dementia that accounts for around 60 to 80 percent of all cases of Dementia and impacts the ability to remember recent events like conversations as well as distant memories. Later stages of Alzheimer’s disease also affect a person’s ability to walk, talk, and can change their personality⁶.
In a report by the Department of Veterans Affairs, it is estimated around 457,391 veterans will have an Alzheimer’s dementia diagnosis. This estimation could still be on the lower end since many cases of dementia remain unidentified in healthcare settings. A study by the VA suggests nearly 70 percent of veterans with dementia are not identified⁷.
Ketamine Infusions for Military Members
Formerly used exclusively as an anesthetic and sedative option for medical procedures, ketamine infusions can benefit patients with neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, as well as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder; all of which are commonly present in mental health diagnoses for veterans⁸.
Ketamine can provide immediate relief to the challenges veterans endure, while also regulating the natural mood hormones by stimulating the glutamate system and helping rebuild neural connections, allowing the brain to create positive changes in the long term³.
Ketamine Treatments at Avesta
Ketamine infusions are not a new treatment for veterans with mental health challenges, as it was effectively administered during the Vietnam War to military members. Veterans Affairs also provides coverage options for ketamine treatment and its access is expanding within VA community clinics. Avesta Ketamine and Wellness is committed to your well-being. If you or a family member are a veteran and want to discuss if ketamine therapy is right for you, please schedule a consultation. We do provide a discount for current and retired service members.
¹ U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (n.d.). The Origins of Veterans Day. Celebrating America’s Freedoms. Retrieved October 19, 2022, from https://www.va.gov/opa/publications/celebrate/vetday.pdf
² Inoue, C., Shawler, E., Jordan, C. H., & Jackson, C. A. (2022, May 23). Veteran and military mental health issues. National Center for Biotechnology Information. Retrieved October 18, 2022, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34283458/
³ Ketamine Wellness Centers. (2021, April 12). Ketamine treatments for veterans with PTSD. Ketamine Wellness Centers. Retrieved October 20, 2022, from https://ketaminewellnesscenters.com/veterans-how-ketamine-can-help/
⁴ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). TBI among service members and Veterans. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved October 20, 2022, from https://www.cdc.gov/traumaticbraininjury/military/index.html
⁵ Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2021, May 25). Chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved October 19, 2022, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/chronic-traumatic-encephalopathy/symptoms-causes/syc-20370921
⁶ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019, April 5). What is dementia? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved October 19, 2022, from https://www.cdc.gov/aging/dementia/index.html#:~:text=Dementia%20is%20not%20a%20specific,a%20part%20of%20normal%20aging.
⁷ U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (n.d.). Statistical Projections of Alzheimer’s Dementia. Retrieved October 21, 2022, from https://www.va.gov/GERIATRICS/docs/VHA_ALZHEIMERS_DEMENTIA_Statistical_Projections_FY21_and_FY33_sgc121820.pdf
⁸ Mohammad Shehata, I., Masood, W., Nemr, N., Anderson, A., Bhusal, K., Edinoff, A. N., Cornett, E. M., Kaye, A. M., Kaye, A. D. (2022, March 22). The possible application of ketamine in the treatment of depression in alzheimer’s disease. Neurology international. Retrieved October 28, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9036213/
Elder, G. A., Ehrlich, M. E., & Gandy, S. (2019, August 10). Relationship of traumatic brain injury to chronic mental health problems and dementia in military veterans. Neuroscience Letters. Retrieved October 17, 2022, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0304394019303672
Nostrant, R. (2022, September 29). VA community clinics expand ketamine treatment options for depression. Military Times. Retrieved October 20, 2022, from https://www.militarytimes.com/off-duty/military-culture/2022/09/29/va-community-clinics-expand-ketamine-treatment-options-for-depression/
Palo Alto Mind Body. (n.d.). How Ketamine Infusion Therapy Is Helping Veterans. Palo Alto Mind Body. Retrieved October 20, 2022, from https://www.paloaltomindbody.com/blog/how-ketamine-infusion-therapy-is-helping-veterans
Zhu, C. W., & Sano, M. (2021, February 25). Demographic, health, and exposure risks associated with cognitive loss, Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias in US military veterans. Frontiers. Retrieved October 20, 2022, from https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyt.2021.610334/full
Photo by RODNAE Productions from Pexels: https://www.pexels.com/photo/man-in-green-and-brown-camouflage-shirt-7468215/
Author Dr. Ladan Eshkevari, PhD, CRNA, FAAN Dr. Eshkevari is the lead clinician at Avesta, and is a long time researcher and educator in physiology, biophysics, and anesthesiology. She is passionate about assisting patients with retractable, difficult to treat mood disorders, and relies on the latest research to bring evidence to Avesta's practice to better understand and serve patients.