JUNE IS NATIONAL PTSD AWARENESS MONTH
I always focus on Combat PTSD because that is what I have studied. I usually write something about it. I usually explain what it is. Everyone should know these two things by now. If you don’t know—look it up. Google it, google it with my name you’ll find several articles and one radio piece.
So this year I am including a different angle of PTSD. This year I’m writing about how these soldiers, sailors, Marines & airmen who were once hailed as heroes by the general public, are often treated with disdain when they suffer from PTSD. I say suffer… I mean suffer. They suffer, their families suffer, their friends suffer, but most of the people who reaped the benefits of their service and sacrifice, they don’t suffer at all. Some of them don’t even have the decency to vote. The whole freedom thing-- shat upon.
TO FULLY UNDERSTAND...
PTSD you have to live it. Not necessarily have it—but live it. If you have a loved one who has PTSD (also called PTS) then you know about the anxiety attacks, the anger issues, the nightmares, the confusion, the depression, the total lack of giving a shit, and the inability for some to function without caretakers. The drinking and drugs are mostly by-products, but surely part of the problem. And, sadly- the most sad of all, is that sometimes they give up and commit suicide. 22 Veterans commit suicide a day. 22 A DAY.
Trips to the VA are too confusing for some. Go to this office for this paper and that office for that paper and go see this guy in that building or this lady in this building and then when you’re through come back to this building but don’t see me see Dr. So & So … and so on and so forth. If you are not suicidal before going there – you may well be afterwards. People, us civilians, do not know that.
People ask why did you join the service in the first place? There are as many answers for that as there are people in the service. After 9-11, a lot of them joined. Even though most of them grew up with Vietnam War Vets in their family, and Korean Conflict vets too, they heard stories, they knew Uncle Joe was never the same after Vietnam. They knew the story of Aunt Peggy who was a nurse in Vietnam then came home and drank herself to death. But, they joined. Some of them, joined for noble reasons, some were running away from what they were in, some were thinking of their future, some wanted the free education, most of them—did not think they would die. Most of them did not think they would lose arms and legs and eyes, and hearing and skin, and I bet none of them thought they would lose their minds.
I have studied PTSD now for about 9 years. Before it walked through my door, it walked through the doors of people I knew. When I heard them talk about their loved ones, sometimes it was with anger or confusion and sometimes it was with an abundance of empathy and love. Sometimes – all of the above. That made me realize that I needed to fully understand the complexities before I wrote about it or met it head on.
PTS has become pervasive among our troops. We managed to turn a blind eye to the Vietnam veterans that came home with it. We called them drug addicts (and baby killers) and threw them away. But things are different now. Some people know better, and those people spend every waking hour doing something about it by educating everyone they meet—PTS is not a made up condition. It’s not a weakness. It’s a wound. It’s a scar. It’s a war within.
STOP BLAMING THE WARRIORS...
They were mostly 18 years old when they joined. They had no idea what death and destruction would do to them. (And most of their parents had no idea either.) Even those that thought they might know--- thought they were smarter than everyone else—they didn’t know either. So instead of blaming the warriors or even the wars that have already taken place, start finding ways to make peace in the world. Start finding common dominators instead differences. Stop using religion to hate. Stop voting for war. And sure—the bad guys are the bad guys, and they have to be dealt with—but don’t sign up our troops until all other avenues are exhausted. Don’t be a knee jerk. Don’t hate just because. Try to figure out why.
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), and PTS are the signature wounds of the Middle East wars. Studies show that 14-20 % of Veterans from Iraq (OIF) and Afghanistan (OEF) have PTSD. 50% of those with PTSD do not seek treatment. Out of the half that seek treatment, only half of them get "minimally adequate" treatment (RAND study) 19% of veterans may have traumatic brain injury (TBI) Over 260,000 veterans from OIF and OEF so far have been diagnosed with TBI. Traumatic brain injury is much more common in the general population than previously thought: according to the CDC, over 1,700,000 Americans have a traumatic brain injury each year; in Canada 20% of teens had TBI resulting in hospital admission or that involved over 5 minutes of unconsciousness (VA surgeon reporting in BBC News) 7% of veterans have both post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. The rates of post-traumatic stress are greater for these wars than prior conflicts.
HOW CAN WE HELP?
I’m glad you asked. First- have compassion. Don’t assume someone is a bum or a drug addict or a loser because their life isn’t going the way you think it should. Families and loved ones need to educate themselves as much as possible. And if needed, get your own counseling to help you navigate the difficult days.
Clearly, it’s best to let the professionals deal with such a delicate issue. But it’s good to understand some of the triggers and help the Vet avoid them if you have the opportunity. Check the link for more information.
You can donate to organizations that help veterans with PTS and /or TBI. (see below)
You can volunteer to help navigate the VA process (there is training available)
Just Listen – don’t ask any questions if you are not a combat veteran. Empathy does not extend to knowledge.
A safe way to check in without being intrusive is ask on a scale of 1-10 how are you doing? You’ll be surprised how many of them will tell you the truth.
If you know a vet that you suspect has PTSD, carry the VA Hotline number and offer it to him/her.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Donate to: (vetted)