PTSD Prolongs Veterans’ Trauma, but Help Is Available
To fully understand how serious post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is among veterans, check out these unfortunate statistics:
- Over 7,000 U.S. military troops have died in Iraq and Afghanistan since September 11, 2001.
- More than four times that number—over 30,000—U.S. veterans and service members have killed themselves during that time.
What is PTSD?
Unfortunately, it’s common for current and former military service members to commit suicide because of PTSD. The condition can occur if people experience or witness traumatic events, which is sadly routine for military members who have encountered battlefields, war zones, or stressful situations.
PTSD occurs when people re-experience their trauma repeatedly and may have anxiety, flashbacks, and nightmares. In addition, some turn to alcohol or drugs to forget their pain.
How can veterans find help?
Recent studies have found that 15% of the U.S. troops who have returned home from Iraq and Afghanistan have PTSD, while others estimate that around 18.5% of former service members have the condition. These numbers are alarming, as a large number of veterans are currently suffering.
In addition, the chaotic events and news surrounding the exit of the United States from Afghanistan in 2021 may have triggered some veterans’ PTSD.
Though many veterans endure PTSD, we are fortunate to have the means to assist the condition. Veterans and their loved ones can find help.
Explore these organizations and initiatives further to find assistance in the fight against PTSD:
National Center for PTSD
As a part of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the National Center for PTSD operates a website that’s a helpful collection of educational articles, research studies, and other resources.
For example, it includes a page called “Coping with Current Events in Afghanistan” that describes problems people may be having because of Afghanistan-related events. The article reassures people that others have had these reactions, and it explains how to find professional assistance. This website can be beneficial for those looking to learn more about PTSD and its roots.
Veterans Choice Program
Another initiative of the VA, the Veterans Choice Program (VCP), assists veterans who live far from government assistance or would have to wait a long time for VA medical care.
Through the Veterans Choice Program, veterans can seek help from providers in their communities. These options could be vital if they have mental health needs that respond better to more timely intervention.
Real Warriors Campaign
Managed by the Military Health System, the Real Warriors Campaign provides different types of psychological assistance for veterans, service members, and their loved ones.
By visiting the Real Warrior Campaign’s web pages, people can learn about and find help to treat PTSD and other conditions and incidents, including grief, depression, sexual assault, stress, and transitions.
Mental Health First Aid for Military Members, Veterans, and Their Families
Mental Health First Aid for Military Members, Veterans, and Their Families is a course from the National Council for Mental Wellbeing and the Missouri Department of Mental Health.
This course covers things such as military culture, members’ risk factors, stigmas about substance use and mental illnesses, helping people who don’t want help, and local resources. Much like other resources, it reassures people with mental health challenges that they’re not alone and that assistance is available.
Lifeline for Vets
When veterans contact the National Veterans Foundation’s Lifeline, they’ll speak with other veterans. Since the veterans taking the calls may have had the same or similar experiences, they might be able to form helpful connections with their callers.
According to the Lifeline for Vets website, calling 1-888-777-4443 can get you in touch with veterans to learn about “medical treatment, PTSD counseling, VA benefits advocacy, food, shelter, employment, training, legal aid, suicide intervention and more.”
Wounded Warrior Project
The Wounded Warrior Project assists people who experienced mental or physical wounds, injuries, or illnesses while serving in the military on September 11, 2001, or afterward.
Its Warrior Care Network helps veterans experiencing PTSD, military sexual trauma (MST), and traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) through intensive outpatient programs. Its WWP Talk counseling service gives emotional support and goal-setting advice through phone calls. Both acknowledge that military service can affect mental and physical health, but help is available for every condition.
Veterans Crisis Line and National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
If someone is having suicidal thoughts, creating a suicide plan, thinking about killing themselves, or experiencing a mental health crisis, it’s always a good idea to speak with someone.
Contacting the Veterans Crisis Line could help. It’s affiliated with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and connects veterans and service members to trained counselors who can assist them during crises and arrange additional assistance.
To contact the Veterans Crisis Line, call 1-800-273-8255 and press 1 (1-800-273-TALK and press 1). Also, you can text 838255 or chat online by visiting the Crisis Chat page.
To contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, call 1-800-273-8255 or chat online by visiting the Lifeline Chat page.
PTSD is often a debilitating condition, but with proper assistance, it can be a manageable one.
watson.brown.edu – U.S. & Allied Killed
sunshinebehavioralhealth.com – PTSD and Addiction
tandfonline.com – PTSD Relapse in Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan: A Systematic Review
rand.org – Invisible Wounds: Mental Health and Cognitive Care Needs of America’s Returning Veterans
atlanticcouncil.org – PTSD Is an Endless War for Veterans. The News from Afghanistan Is Making It Worse
ptsd.va.gov – Coping with Current Events in Afghanistan
va.gov – 10 Things About the Veterans Choice Program (VCP)
health.mil – Materials
mentalhealthfirstaid.org – Mental Health First Aid for Veterans
nvf.org – What We Do at NVF and the Lifeline for Vets
woundedwarriorproject.org – Warrior Care Network
woundedwarriorproject.org – WWP Talk: Counseling for Veterans and Their Families
veteranscrisisline.net – Crisis Chat
suicidepreventionlifeline.org – Lifeline Chat
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