Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Mental well-being of veterans linked to ability to find jobs

From The Tribune-Review in Pittsburgh, Pa.:

The mental well-being of veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars is linked to their ability to find jobs later, according to two veterans who spoke at the Mental Health America of Westmoreland County breakfast Oct. 29.

The two veterans said they believe employers are sometimes reluctant to hire recent combat veterans.

Sean Zielinski, a Iraq war veteran who is a disabled-veterans employment representative for PA Career Links Westmoreland County, said even those with post-traumatic stress disorder can be "good employees."

At times, "they may need time to walk away" from the job, Zielinski said, but they should be given an opportunity to work.

Zielinski pointed to many veterans who go on interviews but get turned down. The result is "more anger and frustration" and a rising level of "fear that they are not going to be able to take care of their families."

Jason Brosk, an Iraq war veteran and a readjustment therapist at the Veterans Center in McKeesport, said he felt isolated and alone when he left the Army.

"I felt I had no purpose. All the wind had been taken out of my sails," he said.

After returning from a seven-month deployment in 2003, Brosk said he went through a series of job interviews that got him nowhere. While in the service, he was told civilian employers would be eager to hire veterans, he said. But Brosk said he discovered the opposite.

Brosk said he believes many employers were "turned off" by his "aggressive" background of "shooting rifles and blowing things up" in the Army. He recalled one career counselor that said he should "demilitarize" his job resume.

Brosk said he found work after a year of job-hunting.

"The best therapy (for a veteran) is a good, meaningful job," Brosk said. "It brings back a purpose in life."

Anne Merical, a behavioral-health therapist at Westmoreland VA Primary Care Center, said that for female veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, post-traumatic stress disorder stems in large measure from "military sexual trauma" or "rape."