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How I Covered the "Veteran's Awareness" Story

The idea for this story came from a combination of two things: the assignment to cover a bill in the Minnesota Senate, and my interest in veterans' affairs.

I have several friends in the military, some still overseas, and when I saw a category for "Veterans" and "Military" in the list of bills in the MN Senate, I knew I wanted to get a stroy from there.

The bill I chose, to improve veterans' access to mental health services, seemed timely as well as interesting. Many people have loved one in the military and are concerned about both their physical safety and mental health. With more and more Iraq vets returning home, mental health issues like PTSD are gathering more salience in the news.

There were several authors to the bill, not just the chief author. I contacted all of them through email first, then called some of their offices. No one was available over the phone when I called, but surprisingly a few of the authors (the ones quoted in the story) got back to me.

I needed more information from other sources to fill out the story and give it authority, so I contacted two psychologists at the U of M. Fortunately, the one with a social psychology background got back to me very quickly. She was very helpful in adding a facet to the story I had not thought of before (that the military's problem with getting vets therapy may not be access, but stigma).

I also spoke with an Iraq vet I knew through some friends. He was more helpful than I thought he would be. I wish that I had had the time to find more veterans to comment, though.

I would have loved to find out how many veterans actually use the mental health services, how many (estimated) should be using them, etc. If I was writing this for a magazine or newspaper, I would like to have added two graphs or charts: One listing the most common mental health complaints of vets, and another showing what proportion of vets need/use mental health services. Photos of everyone who commented on the story would also have been helpful.