I've been out of the active duty military for almost 9 years now and I would like to finally acknowledge (like many retirees suffer but deny) and share my journey with my mental health after serving 23 years from the Navy:
• The transition from military to civilian life can be very difficult. Service member like me lose the structure, routine and camaraderie of the military, which can be psychologically jarring.
• Many retirees struggle with a loss of identity and purpose after leaving the Navy. For decades our work defined who we were and gave our life meaning. Finding new sources of identity and purpose as a civilian can promote mental wellbeing.
• Some common mental health issues retirees face include depression, anxiety, substance abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder from past experiences. Getting help early for these conditions is important.
• Reconnecting with friends and family may be challenging after years of separation during military service. Rebuilding these connections can help counteract loneliness and isolation.
• Finding meaningful activities and structure to fill the void left by a Navy career is crucial. This could mean a new job, volunteering, hobbies, interests, education or travel.
• It's normal to go through a period of adjustment after retiring from the military. But if difficulties persist for months, seeking professional help from a psychologist or psychiatrist may be needed.
• Veteran organizations, church and support groups like Celebrate Recovery can provide camaraderie, resources and a sense of community during retirement. They also help combat the isolation some veterans face.
• Practicing mindfulness, meditation and other stress management techniques can boost coping skills and resilience. These skills were likely deemphasized during one's Navy career.
Hopefully these additional details provide some more nuanced perspectives regarding mental health and wellbeing after retirement from the Navy. Admitting to myself that I have issues is actually comforting and writing it and being vulnerable about it can maybe help others to open up too.