Veterans + PTSD

Jim Fullem, who was drafted into the Army in 1961, salutes the colors during the annual Memorial Day ceremony at Quantico National Cemetery, May 28, 2012. Fullem was there to pay respects to his son whom gave his life while serving in the Marine Corps.

Blog post by Colin Hung

This week is the Memorial Day holiday in the US – a day for remembering and honoring people who have died while serving in the Armed Forces. As we think about all the brave warriors who made the ultimate sacrifice – we cannot forget that many did not die in conflict, but tragically at home from mental illness.

Here are some sobering statistics:

  • Female veterans have a rate of suicide 1.8x higher than non-veteran adult women [VA 2016 study]
  • Male veterans have a rate of suicide 1.4x higher than non-veteran adult men [VA 2016 study]
  • 30% of soldiers develop mental problems within 3 to 4 months of being home [link]
  • An estimated 38,000 veterans in the US are homeless [link]

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is the term used to describe a range of symptoms related to changes in mental health due to trauma (physical or emotional). The National Center for PTSD defines it as follows:

PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder) is a mental health problem that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event, like combat, a natural disaster, a car accident, or sexual assault. When someone has PTSD, their ability to function as a parent or partner can be impacted, and changes in their functioning can lead to unmet family needs and increased stress within the family.

PTSD is not a topic that I have personal experience with. But given the holiday and the fact that June is PTSD Awareness Month, I thought it would be a worthwhile topic to discuss on the next HCLDR weekly chat.

What I find most encouraging, is how many reports are coming out about effective treatments and successful coping mechanisms for PTSD. In the past year, I have read stories about:

Sadly, many veterans that are suffering with PTSD do not seek treatment because they fear the stigma that is associated with the diagnosis. PBS News Hour ran a piece back in 2017 that brought light to this situation. In the video, two combat veterans talk about how it is hard to admit to having PTSD.

COL. Greg Gadson said: “It wasn’t something that I could identify with. You know, as an athlete, as a — as an officer, as a leader, we’re trained to override pain, to override doubt. I mean, every tough challenge in my life, I fought through. And that’s what I — and so I was committed to fighting through it again, and without help.”

Special Agent Drew Barnett (Navy Seals): “During my early training in the Navy, one of our instructors said, you know, hey, guys, it’s better to die than look stupid. Just make sure you don’t do both. And in thinking about that, I realized that is a lot of the mind-set that we have, is, we don’t want to, one, look weak, or we don’t want to be someone who is not dependable.”

I can only imagine how difficult it is for veterans and their families to deal with PTSD and other mental health challenges that result from military or rescue deployment. I hope that we continue to invest time, effort and money into treatment programs to help support everyone impacted by mental illness.

Join #hcldr, Tuesday May 28th at 8:03pm ET (for your local time click here) when we will discuss the following:

  • T1 Share you military/veteran story or one that you have heard or read about.
  • T2 What advice would you give to someone evaluating the many different PTSD treatment options? Who could they trust?
  • T3 What more can be done to support families who have a loved one suffering from PTSD?
  • T4 How might we end the stigma that admitting you need help = admitting you are weak?

References

“VA National Suicide Data Report 2005-2016”, Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention US Department of Veterans Affairs, September 2018, https://www.mentalhealth.va.gov/docs/data-sheets/OMHSP_National_Suicide_Data_Report_2005-2016_508.pdf, accessed 27 May 2019

McCarthy, Niall. “Where The Veteran Homeless Population Is Rising And Falling [Infographic]”, Forbes, 8 November 2018, https://www.forbes.com/sites/niallmccarthy/2018/11/08/where-the-veteran-homeless-population-is-rising-and-falling-infographic/#25d9918816a0, accessed 27 May 2019

Durkin, Erin. “A national emergency: suicide rate spikes among young US veterans”, The Guardian, 26 September 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/sep/26/suicide-rate-young-us-veterans-jumps, accessed 27 May 2019

Lancaster, Cynthia L et al. “Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: Overview of Evidence-Based Assessment and Treatment.” Journal of clinical medicine, 22 Nov. 2016, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5126802/, accessed 27 May 2019

Boyd, Jenna E et al. “Mindfulness-based treatments for posttraumatic stress disorder: a review of the treatment literature and neurobiological evidence.” Journal of psychiatry & neuroscience, January 2018, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5747539/, accessed 27 May 2019

Bruilliard, Karin. “For military veterans suffering from PTSD, are service dogs good therapy?”, The Washington Post, 27 March 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/for-military-veterans-suffering-from-ptsd-are-service-dogs-good-therapy/2018/03/27/23616190-2ec1-11e8-b0b0-f706877db618_story.html, accessed 27 May 2019

Taylor, Chloe. “Orlando clinic develops virtual reality to treat PTSD in veterans”, CNBC, 2 January 2019, https://www.cnbc.com/2018/12/28/orlando-clinic-develops-virtual-reality-to-treat-ptsd-in-veterans.html, accessed 27 May 2019

Smith, Matt. “Ecstasy Study Results Promising for PTSD”, WebMD, 30 October 2018, https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/news/20181030/ecstasy-study-results-promising-for-ptsd, accessed 27 May 2019

“The stigma that stops veterans from getting help for PTSD”, PBS, 29 March 2017, https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/stigma-stops-veterans-getting-help-ptsd, accessed 27 May 2019

Image Credit

Fallen heroes remembered on Memorial Day – DVIDSHUB https://flic.kr/p/c8qGT9

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