Data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) shows that in 2021 approximately 2.8 million Veterans experienced an illicit drug or alcohol use disorder and 92.4 percent did not receive treatment, while approximately 3.1 million Veterans experienced a mental illness and 43.6 percent did not receive treatment. It’s important that we also recognize Veterans who have engaged in treatment, committed to a process of change, and are striving to reach their full potential in recovery. NSDUH data indicates that two out of three Veterans who ever had a mental health issue considered themselves to be in recovery; three out of four Veterans who ever had a substance use problem considered themselves to be in recovery. In fact, recovery from substance use problems was more often reported among Veterans than other groups of respondents. These reports of recovery give us hope and prompt us to ask ourselves how to engage more Veterans in behavioral health services.


The contents of this post are extracted from a helpful article called “Recognizing the Role of Peers in Recovery for Veterans” by SAMHSA. Learn more about mental health at their website.

Peers play a huge role in mental health recovery for veterans.

Veterans have unique experiences that are part of the collective culture of military service. Service members are trained to prioritize accomplishing a mission first. In or out of uniform, some former service members might not feel comfortable and safe prioritizing their behavioral health and reaching out for support.

Peer relationships are an important part of military culture…whether they’re called battle buddies, teammates, or brothers/sisters in arms, military peers support one another in their military careers and experiences. It’s fitting that we look at leveraging peer relationships when Veterans are experiencing hardships like mental health and substance use disorders. Peer support is increasingly recognized as a crucial part of the overall ecosystem for recovery and the Biden-Harris Administration has identified expanding access to peer support as an important component of tackling the nation’s mental health crisis.