Reaching out to better a veteran's mental health

By Kelly McCarthy

May 31, 2013 Updated May 31, 2013 at 6:16 PM EDT

Binghamton, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Many veterans returning home from combat struggle with the transition back to civilian life. A group of social workers gathered in Binghamton to hear from veterans on ways professionals can help.

The Veterans Mental Health Training initiative is working to meet the needs of returning vets to succeed in civilian life.

A 2011 study by the RAND Corporation says 34 percent of returning veterans "self-indicated a mental health need."

Congressman Chris Gibson (R) 19th District is an Army veteran himself and was deployed seven times.

Gibson said many veterans returning home are looking for a sense of connection.

"When a veteran first presents and come in, the sense of isolation, the potential sense of despair, and hopelessness," Gibson said. "The mental health professionals that I'm talking to, they want to know how is it that they can affiliate."

One veteran said his downfall was not relying on family as much as could have.

"To come home, you feel the road rage," said Michael Sportello. "You feel like you have to drive 90 miles an hour because you did that over there. The transition for me, I'm still transitioning. I struggle daily."

Sportello is an Army veteran who served during the first invasion of Iraq. He said programs like Wounded Warriors and Hopes for the Warrior have helped his transition home.

"I'm so engaged in those programs now that it helps me," Sportello said. "And hopefully this message gets out and my brothers and sisters will see it and say, hey, maybe that's what we need to do too."

The Veterans Mental Health Training Initiative was sponsored by the New York State Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers. NASW held a series of three conference on Friday across the state.