Veterans and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
|Photo from silouan.com|
While serving, military men and women gave up so much for us Americans -- their safety, their homes and being with their families. Many missed the birth of their children, missed holidays and went months on end without seeing their wives or husbands. Yet, when they return home, life for many veterans don't go back to the way it was before they left. They are still sacrificing for us -- strangers they don't even know -- through the effects on their physical and mental health.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, about 11 to 20 percent of veterans who served in Afghanistan or Iraq suffer from PTSD, 12 percent of vets who served in the Gulf War (Desert Storm) and 15 percent of Vietnam veterans.
PTSD can develop after a person has experienced or witnessed a terrifying event, such as a sexual or physical assault, the unexpected death of a loved one, an accident, war or natural disaster. Some symptoms of PTSD, according to WebMD, are:
- Reliving: People with PTSD frequently relive their traumatic experience through memories, nightmares, flashbacks and/or hallucinations
- Isolation: People with PTSD may avoid people or places that remind him or her of the traumatic experience. They may have trouble relating to others and lack the ability to feel or show affection.
- Changes in sleep patterns and emotions: Many with PTSD find it difficult to fall or stay asleep; be irritable; experience outbursts of anger; have difficulty concentrating; and be "jumpy" or easily startled.
- Physical symptoms: Some who suffer from PTSD may experience physical symptoms, such as increased blood pressure and heart rate, rapid breathing and muscle tension.
At an event on Wednesday, Marine veteran Silouan Green, a native of LaPorte, Ind., talked about his recovery from PTSD. According to the Times of Northwest Indiana, Green was involved in a jet crash, which killed his co-pilot, left him with a fractured spine and resulted in him being diagnosed with PTSD upon returning home.
Green said that, if a veteran doesn't have a support system upon returning home, he or she may never seek help or know where to go for help. He said it's our job as American citizens to offer support. For Green, it was a man who taught him to play guitar and another man who gave him a deal on his motorcycle who helped him find a way to get help.
He said his healing came from selling all of his possessions except for one car and spending the next two years on the road.
"Riding across our great country, each mile allowed me the freedom to begin to dream again. I felt like a child again. I began to write, to sing, to learn the guitar – all the things I do today to make a living," he wrote on his website.
"Maybe you know what it’s like to be falling down the rabbit hole with nothing in sight but a black hole. ... I want you to live free. I want you to find what I found on the back of a motorcycle – identity, purpose and most of all, passion."
Here's some advice Green gave on his blog, Bound for Freedom, to help those who you think may be suffering from PTSD:
"1. Examine your own life. Don’t be afraid to reveal your own weaknesses so you can say, 'I don’t know what you are going through, but here is what I went through and this is how I did it.'
2. Take your loved one to a place they enjoy and you can talk – a park, a coffee shop, a drive, hunting, whatever they like.
3. After some time enjoying each other’s company bring up my first point, reveal yourself a little – Open this door to talk and tell them you’d like to help them and ask what is going on.
4. Repeat #3 until they open up – Don’t be too pushy or intrusive, give them space, but don’t give up. I like to call it patiently present. Just be present. If they can’t unlock the darkness consuming them, they will die – literally and/or figuratively."
For those living with PTSD, for more information on how to get help, visit U.S. Department of Veterans Affair's website.