MHM2014 Mind Your Health HORIZONTAL BANNER for may page-01-01May has been officially declared Mental Health Awareness Month and the national theme is, “Mind Your Health.”

I’ve always said that in order to be healthy your mind, body and soul have to be one. Thirty minutes of exercise, 30 minutes of meditation and 30 minutes in therapy! All well and good, but if your body is wracked with pain and the prescribed meds you take are causing you to grow by leaps and bounds, how can 30 minutes of exercise be enough? Of course, diet is key…but when stressed, I eat! I don’t even feel like exercising because of my pain. I know, you say, “Excuses, excuses, excuses.” The truth is, I just have to do it! But oh…the pain.

Pain management for those suffering with mental health issues is a tremendous concern. I don’t know about you, but the older I get the less tolerant I am to pain. That’s when I try to breathe, focus or meditate. Meditation works if you do it every day — helps calm your soul.

mhm-dogtagsWhat about the mind, though? Thirty minutes of therapy — is once a month really enough?

It’s taken me 10 years to get to this point in my quest toward a healthy mind, and only in the last three years have I made any significant progress after attending an inpatient treatment center in Lyons,  New Jersey. It was there that I learned you have to “Feel, Deal and Heal.” I meditated, I walked with the help of a walker and tried to eat well. But I was in long-term therapy and that’s the difference. It’s my personal belief that 30 minutes of therapy once a month is not enough for those who have serious mental health issues. You realize that when it takes 10 minutes to take off and put on your coat in the therapist’s office. We all know there is limited access for every Veteran for mental health care and that time is precious. The mental health staff are stressed themselves to be able to meet the demand. You can see it in their faces — I’m sure they too, need help from the case load.

While I was very excited and proud that VA hired more than 1,600 mental health professionals to expand health care and provide outreach efforts, we must do all we can to continue to increase access to care. So what’s the answer? If you extend the time to one hour, fewer Veterans will be seen with our existing staff.

The answer is simple: Continue to hire more mental health care staff to meet the demands. Shouldn’t we have learned this from Vietnam? More importantly, let’s afford every Veteran with serious mental health issues the opportunity to attend inpatient treatment. Let’s increase the access to mental health and make sure women Veterans get equal access. I had to travel clear across the country to get my extended inpatient care, even though the Denver VAMC is a large facility., there was no PTSD program for women Veterans in Denver either. That’s an issue we must address as well — access to treatment near our homes. Let’s not make sick Veterans travel clear across country to get their care. Congress must fully fund these programs and deal with mental health issues regarding all our Veterans – be they active duty, reserve, retired, etc.

Mental health issues are a community crisis now, and it will take a village of mental health professionals to ensure adequate care. Every American should be afforded mental health care. To deny access is to deny a basic human right.

Feel, Deal and Heal – is 30 minutes enough? I don’t think so!



Bonnie Tierney served on active duty with the Air Force, both in the enlisted and officer ranks, from 1973 – 1992. She holds a master’s degree in public administration from Troy State University. She is a disabled veteran currently serving as facilities management administrative officer for VA in Denver, Colo.

Share this story

Published on May. 12, 2014

Estimated reading time is 3.4 min.

Views to date: 108


  1. Brian Remmerde May 31, 2014 at 2:33 am

    No, thirty minutes is not enough! I have complex neurological problems and every 6-18 months and usually by the time they transfer out they just started learning that I’m drastically different than other Vets, in fact, in the Reno VA, I’m the only one of the patients that understand Narcolepsy, Cataplexy, status catiplecticus and myoclus. The psychs they have me see, most don’t even know what N/c is, and none know why I’m coming to mental health. Grrrrr!!! I’m fed up!

  2. Jim T. May 14, 2014 at 7:27 am

    Yes, pain can really compound things such as mental health. I just had heart surgery 12 days ago. Trying to do therapy now. Doing pretty good since I usually move around a lot. The doctors, nurses and entire staff were great at Ralph H. Johnson VAMC in Charleston, S.C. Thanks so much to all of them.

    • Bonnie Tierney May 17, 2014 at 4:49 am

      Good luck with your recovery Jim. Heart surgery is a big deal. Glad to hear you were treated well by the VA staff! Thank you for responding.

  3. Sandy Holland May 13, 2014 at 10:34 am

    I wish my husband got 30 minutes once a month! He has some major mental problems and at the most he gets an hour every other month….he is supposed to have an hour every other week. His next appointment was cancelled by the clinic with a voicemail that said they would contact him to set another appointment. That was almost a month ago.

    • Bonnie Tierney May 17, 2014 at 4:45 am

      Mrs. Holland – Please have your husband go into the clinic and follow up. I find when I am proactive about restoring my cancelled visits, I get seen. I had a cancelled appointment too because my provider needed some well deserved vacation, but the long wait time drove me bonkers. It is very difficult, I know. It’s great you are supportive though. Your husband is fortunate from that perspective.

  4. Old-Dawg May 12, 2014 at 6:38 pm

    The secret to weight loss is, simply, eat less, move more. Eating less is a real challenge. I’m a Vietnam Vet. 64 years old. I walk everyday. Last week I walked 24 miles. Here’s the clincher. My hips are shot. Chronic Bursitis. They want to do surgery and scrape the bursa but I’m resisting that notion as long as I can still walk. When I go for my daily walk, it usually hurts every step of the way. If it doesn’t, then by mile 3 my hips are starting be twinge. I’ve been able to continue my daily walking for the past 2 years. I’ve lost 100 pounds. Take encouragement brother and sister vets. It’s doable with moderate discomfort. Just persevere ! Of course, if the pain is too much, DON’T do it. But, if you can move through the pain and keep your eye on the goal then by all means go for it. Besides weight loss and cardio reform, my exercise also helps me emotionally. Nothing like walking off anger, depression, stress. I do it. EVERY day.

    • Bonnie Tierney May 17, 2014 at 4:36 am

      By the way, thank you Old Dawg for your service and for your inspiring comments! I am on oxygen so dragging around the tank is difficult for me – but I agree with you. Eat less and exercise more! I am going to look into water exercise because it is less stress on my body. Despite your pain, you push forward. I admire you for seeing the goal and losing 100 pounds! It can be done — you have proven it! When you don’t use it, I always say, “you lose it.” I’ll give walking some distance a try and will do it incrementally!

  5. Norm Walters May 12, 2014 at 3:59 pm

    When you are in mid sentence of explaining your current situation when the 30th minute strikes and you have not completed informing the health care worker what your problems are, then what have you accomplished? Nothing. I have had this happen numerous times. I leave the clinic without them knowing what my problems are so they can address them and I go home accomplishing NOTHING.

  6. Norm Walters May 12, 2014 at 3:56 pm

    This especially holds true when you are in the middle of explaining new issues that you are having to deal with (and it requires that you state them “in detail”). and you are in mid-sentence and your mental health provider says, “well that’s all the time for this session,” then what have you accomplished at all? Nothing. You walk out with the same problems with no plan of assistance and the V A mental care person doesn’t have a clue as to what is wrong with you. Thirty minutes enough? No way. That is why so many people, even myself, are not achieving any progress with our situations due to the “chop off” time when the 30th minute strikes.

  7. Mike Jarrett May 12, 2014 at 12:14 pm

    Dear Bonnie, I can truly relate with your issue of pain !
    The 3rd sentence of the 2nd paragraph has me confused. I dont understand how your body wracked with pain and the meds you take can cause you to grow by leaps and bounds ? Could you elaborate on this please ?
    I do agree with you on the issue of the countless who are in need of services and especially the 30 minute appointments do not provide adequate time for helpful treatment. These appointments need to be an hour long for most people I have talked with who are or are trying to get appointments.
    Take care Bonnie and good luck in the future.


    • Jack May 12, 2014 at 7:56 pm

      I believe she is saying that all the meds are causing excessive weight gain-your body is growing by leaps and, perhaps, pounds might be a more efficient wording…just maybe…

      • Bonnie Tierney May 17, 2014 at 4:21 am

        Yes, precisely. thank you Jack!

    • Bonnie Tierney May 17, 2014 at 4:20 am

      Thank you Mike for your kind response… Perhaps I should have written leaps and pounds as in the reply below. I neglected to mention I am also on oxygen here in the Mile High City (Denver) so it makes it difficult for me to sustain any real exercise. Since taking medications, combined with a throid condition, I have put on a significant amount of weight. Not the svelt self I was in the Air Force for sure! The future for me exists one day at a time!

Comments are closed.

More Stories

  • During Sickle Cell Awareness Month in September, the American Red Cross emphasizes the importance of a diverse blood supply to help meet the needs of those with sickle cell disease – the most common inherited blood disorder in the U.S.

  • CaringBridge, a free online tool to communicate health news to family and friends, is celebrating its 25th anniversary.

  • Shahpur Pazhman flew Black Hawk missions in 27 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, resupplying and relocating Afghan ground forces and evacuating casualties to safety. Thanks to Bridge My Return, he's back in the air.