Mental health services available for veterans, others in Tucson - Tucson News Now

Mental health services available for veterans, others in Tucson

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

In the wake of the shootings at Fort Hood, local mental health service groups remind us that there are many services available in Tucson.

The Southern Arizona VA Health Care System in Tucson is one of many mental health services providers in our community.

We asked how can someone spot signs of mental illness in a relative or a friend, and then what can we do to help that person.

It's not an easy topic, and most of us probably would find it difficult to bring up.

However, VA Mental Health Program Chief in Tucson Dr. Tim Mueller says that bringing it up can be a first critical step toward getting treatment.

Mueller also is a University of Arizona School of Medicine Clinical Professor of Psychiatry.

We asked what the early signs of mental illness are.

"Most mental illness--it's earliest signs--reveal themselves in relationships between people. So, long before someone is engaging in violent or planned behavior, their relationships change. Their friendships change. Their friends would says, 'You know something's not quite right,'" Dr. Mueller says.

He adds that at that point, it's important to use compassion, kindness and understanding.

"Approaching someone and saying, 'Hey, I think you need to seek a mental health counselor,' is not going to be successful. So, often, the best first approach is helping them to perhaps see another trusted adviser-- whether that be a physician, a nurse practitioner, a minister or someone in their spiritual community, or even just a trusted mentor," Mueller says.

He says there have been significant improvements in making mental health care available, both in the military and at the VA.

He says the Tucson center has in-patient and out-patient care and has reduced barriers and time it takes for veterans to get access to medical and mental health care.

However, the biggest obstacle to mental health care is often the person who needs treatment.

Dr. Mueller says it's because of the stigma.

"There is still a lot of stigma to receiving care for a mental illness. And that's a big barrier--particularly for young men and women who have just returned from a very active, vigorous kind of military experience--for them to admit that they have a mental illness or an emotional problem that needs professional care. That stigma is our largest barrier," Mueller says.

He adds that in order for a veteran to receive care at the VA he or she must be enrolled.

Mueller says veterans who are not enrolled should start the process by finding out if they are eligible.

The Southern Arizona VA Health Care System in Tucson phone number is 520-792-1450.

The Mental Health Crisis Line in Tucson is (520) 622-6000.

The Veterans Crisis Line is 1-800-273-8255, press 1.

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