Help Veterans Cope with PTSD

by Rachel Baker on September 13, 2009

Hundreds of thousands of American soldiers are coming back from these two wars, and they are dealing with many things most of us can’t even imagine.  Its unfair to think of them as “different” or that they “have problems”.  There should be no stigma associated with the behavior of someone who has suffered traumatic experiences, yet, some Veterans feel there is.  AND there should be no politics involved with helping our Veterans.  Regardless of whether you think we should have been involved with these wars or not, we are; and we owe it to the men and women of our Armed Services to truly welcome them back and support the issues that come with coming back from war.

On the Welcome Back Veterans.org website, there’s something I’d like to bring to your attention: Some of the most commonly cited reasons for not seeking treatment are fear of the stigma about mental illness, worry that loved ones will think of PTSD as a weakness, the belief that PTSD can get better without treatment, or guilt that others didn’t survive so “you have nothing to complain about.” My understanding of PTSD is that this is an ‘illness’ that one never fully heals from, s/he just learns to cope with it.

How many of you have a veteran in your life that has shown symptoms of PTSD (I’ve put down at the bottom of this article a little bit about PTSD from the website).  Do you even know what to look for?  Cornell University has a great webpage with resources for military and their families, in the form of books and online resources. And, the National Center for PTSD has some great resources as well.

Welcome Back Veterans is also a resource for helping Veterans, and their friends and families, cope with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.  There are sections for Veterans, Parents, Friends and Loved Ones, Health Care Providers and the General Public.

The site has a list of books that can be used as resources for helping your Veteran cope.  Frankly, I thought they were a bit too sexual abuse-centric (for this article) and went on an expedition to find a few books that related specifically to PTSD and War.  A Note: Please, please, please, do not think I do not recognize there are many other horrific things that can happen in an individual’s life that can cause PTSD – the workers at Ground Zero, sexual assault victims to name a few.

In keeping with the theme of Old Musty Books, I thought I would list a few books I found that may be of use in helping our veterans.

War and the Soul: Healing Our Nation’s Veterans from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Courage After Fire: Coping Strategies for Troops Returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and Their Families

Haunted by Combat: Understanding PTSD in War Veterans Including Women, Reservists, and Those Coming Back from Iraq

Moving A Nation to Care: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and America’s Returning Troops

Please, go to the Welcomebackveterans.org site and browse through the resources.  In my humble opinion, this site isn’t inclusive enough, but at least there’s something and it helps to build awareness of how to help support your loved one(s) going through PTSD.

A bit about PTSD from the Welcome Back Veterans website:

“Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that that may develop after experiencing or witnessing events such as sexual or physical assault, natural or man-made disasters, war, and torture, and where the person experienced intense feelings of helplessness, fear, or horror. People with PTSD are haunted by events that happened in their past.

Persons with PTSD experience considerable distress when confronted with reminders of the events. They may also have intrusive thoughts about the event, vivid flashbacks where they feel as though they are reliving the event, upsetting dreams and nightmares, and they may be easily frightened or startled. They may try to cope with their symptoms by avoiding people, places, and situations that remind them of the event; they may withdraw and/or feel estranged from loved ones; they may have difficulty experiencing emotions and may come to believe that their future will be cut short. Additionally, PTSD sufferers are at high risk for developing other psychological disorders, such as depression, they are more likely to engage in self-destructive behaviors, such as alcohol and substance abuse, and they are six times more likely than persons without PTSD to commit suicide. PTSD has been associated with unemployment and a work productivity loss of approximately US $3 billion annually.”

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