“Freedom isn’t free.” This is one of the truest clichés of all time, yet why do we so quickly ignore or forget the weight it holds? The irony is that we have the freedom to forget about our soldiers because they sacrifice it all to give us that opportunity. While I know war can be a polarizing political issue, one thing that shouldn’t be is the way we treat our soldiers. Despite your views those who have served deserve better treatment than they get. While this could open a whole discussion into the broken system of the Veteran Affairs, I want to focus in on the main mental health issue soldiers fall prey to, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The reason I want to pick them out specifically is because while their PTSD is not different from civilian PTSD, but because they are not given help from the Veterans Administration along with the fact that they are greatly misunderstood.
PTSD is hard to deal with for veterans and their loved ones. Where many wounds on the battlefield are physically received, PTSD is one that is unseen. Many veterans will come home and think they are fine and others will believe it, then PTSD will slowly become present. Other times veterans can come back and seem fine to the world but they know something is off, whether or not they know its PTSD is the hard part. The mental wound of PTSD is hard because it can misdiagnosed or ignored.
In order to better understand PTSD with veterans let’s look at some statistics from the Veterans Affairs. *A quick disclaimer, while the VA has been treating our veterans in an atrocious manner their statistics are still valid and credible.*:
- The number of Veterans with PTSD varies by service era:
- Operations Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Enduring Freedom (OEF): About 11-20 out of every 100 Veterans (or between 11-20%) who served in OIF or OEF have PTSD in a given year.
- Gulf War (Desert Storm): About 12 out of every 100 Gulf War Veterans (or 12%) have PTSD in a given year.
- Vietnam War: About 15 out of every 100 Vietnam Veterans (or 15%) were currently diagnosed with PTSD at the time of the most recent study in the late 1980s, the National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study (NVVRS). It is estimated that about 30 out of every 100 (or 30%) of Vietnam Veterans have had PTSD in their lifetime.
- In the past year alone the number of diagnosed cases in the military jumped 50% and that’s only the reported and diagnosed cases.
These statistics are staggering and heartbreaking. The thing is that this is not an issue that is just a harmless one that affects one person. Suicide rates from veterans are on the rise. Marriages and families are falling apart. That is why as a community we need to raise awareness and help our veterans. That starts with education on PTSD and how to spot it. Check out my previous blog post, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, for symptoms and treatments.
Outside of getting professional help for you or a loved one there are a few more things you can do. If you are experiencing a crisis feel free to call the confidential and toll-free hotline: Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 (Press 1) or Text to 838255. There is will be support 24/7 all year long. If you are not experiencing a crisis but would like to talk to someone with shared experience check out the site Make the Connection. Make the Connection is a website that looks to find and match veterans together to talk. You can find fellow veterans based on gender, war/era, branch, and combat.
Overall PTSD is a hard issue to tackle. It is unseen, stigmatized, and an issue that is plagued with miss information. If you or a loved one is experiencing PTSD make sure to tell someone and get professional help. Healing is possible you only need to take a step in the right direction.
~Be mindful of the mind