There is a growing dilemma in the United States regarding those who have served in The Armed Forces and the care they receive once returning to civilian life. In addition to this dilemma there is also another major problem regarding the growing rate of suicides among active duty military. Of the 1.7 million people who served in the two most recent wars, Afghanistan and Iraq, 300,000 of these veterans suffer from PTSD or Major Depression (RAND Center for Military Health Policy Research, Invisible Wounds of War, 2008). PTSD is by far the most common disorder suffered by army veterans as 30% of the 834,463 treated by V.A. hospitals and clinics have been diagnosed with PTSD.
The PTSD United States Army veteran dilemma extends to career and occupational hazards with the veteran unemployment rate soaring since 9/11. Luckily, with the recent positive trend in the economy, The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the unemployment rate for veterans dropped to 9.9% from 12.1% in 2011. However, the unemployment rate for veterans is still dramatically higher then the unemployment rate for the general population. According to USA Today, 205,000 individuals who served in Iraq and Afghanistan remain unemployed. The USA Today further states that as the two wars dissipate, in each of the next four years 300,000 veterans will leave the military, leaving possibly as many as 1.2 million military personal looking for work in the private sector.
With the amount of PTSD diagnoses and the stigma that goes along with this illness, finding work may be quite a challenge for many of these people in the near future.
There are however veteran programs and educational opportunities such as the 9/11 G.I. Bill for University or Vocational Education. For information about The G.I. Bill, go to The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs at http://www.gibill.va.gov/.
The motivation to remove the stigma of PTSD so that more managers and business owners are more willing to hire veterans is on the rise. It is a proven fact that working and having an occupation not only provides financially for those with PTSD, but greatly improves their mental health, as having an occupational purpose, focus, and human interaction can be quite important in the rehabilitation process for soldiers who have suffered.
What is Post-traumatic Stress Disorder?
According To The National Association on Mental Illness (NAMI), PTSD is a type of trauma that includes a powerful experience that effects persons such as survivors of rape, survivors of natural disasters, and military service men and women. It further states “1 in 30 adults in the united States suffers from PTSD in a given year” (http://www.nami.org/).
Some trauma however, though difficult, is natural and dissipates with time. Most of us at some point in our lives will lose a loved one to natural causes or otherwise or experience a life changing event, and though difficult this does not necessarily constitute PTSD.
When an individual has PTSD, their body remembers the traumatic event in such a way that their usual thought process of emotions, feelings, memories and bodily functions are inaccessible, leaving them in the state of panic and dismay, or the fight or flight syndrome as the body recalls the traumatic event at times when there is no particular danger of bodily or emotional harm.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the following are the symptoms that generally accompany a diagnosis of PTSD:
Stress disorder symptoms usually begin within three months of the traumatic event, though in rare cases symptoms may surface years after the event.
Symptoms of PTSD are grouped into three types:
1. Intrusive memories
- Flashbacks or reliving the traumatic event for minutes or even days of the event
- Upsetting dreams about the traumatic event
2. Avoidance and Emotional numbing
- Trying to avoid and thinking about the traumatic event
- Feeling emotionally numb
- Avoiding activities you once enjoyed
- Hopelessness about the future
- Memory problems
- Trouble concentrating
- Difficulty maintaining close relationships
3. Symptoms of Anxiety
- Irritability or anger
- Overwhelming guilt or shame
- Self-destructive behavior, such as drinking too much
- Trouble sleeping
- Being easily startled or frightened
- Hearing or seeing things that are not there
Is PTSD Treatable?
Yes PTSD is certainly treatable. There is a lot of help out there that has been proven to have positive results. A sufferer of this illness must make the first step and seek out help, as there is help out there for this illness. There are several different types of treatments available for PTSD. A list of these treatment can be found on The NAMI website at:
The most common treatments include:
On-going scheduled Psychotherapy can be a very valuable tool for people suffering with PTSD, and it has proven to be quite helpful in recovery efforts for those traumatized by past events.
Cognitive Behavior Therapy:
Including, Exposure Therapy similar to the traumatic event in hope to minimize continued physical and mental reactions to non-threatening situations.
- Antidepressants (SSRI’s)
- Beta-Blockers (High Blood Pressure Medications)
- Mood Stabilizers
- Anti-Psychotic Medications
Though part of an alternative medicine practice, yoga has helped millions of people restructure their thought process in mind, body and soul.
Meditation has proved quite helpful in slowing heart rate and gaining peace of mind over difficult events.
RAND Center for Military Health Policy Research, Invisible Wounds of War, 2008