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With all the research being done on PTSD why is there still a stigma surrounding this disorder? Far too often we ignore the symptoms and for what? It seems you can find research on PTSD everywhere! You would think with the growing knowledge and information we are receiving, we might be able to curb our opinions of PTSD and perhaps let go of some of the labels we associate with the disorder. So again, why the continued stigma?
Recently I read two articles that made me reconsider my perspective of this disorder. The first dealt with charges being filed against the VA by the organization Citizens of Responsibility and Ethics in Washington or CREW. They alleged that the VA had taken steps in 2008 to hide the number of reported cases of PTSD amongst veterans or under diagnose veterans suffering with the disorder. Obviously this accusation is disturbing, or at least it should be. What makes it so upsetting isn’t necessarily the alleged cover up or lie in it’s self. It’s the idea that so many men and women, who have sacrificed years of their lives in service to this country, could have been brave enough to take the initiative and seek out help only to have been under diagnosed or misdiagnosed to serve a darker agenda. If the allegations are true we have done a huge disservice to our military community.
The second article or letter I read was submitted to a magazine dedicated to military spouses. In it a women pleaded the case of her husband who had recently returned from active duty a completely changed man. She watched her husband as he retreated socially, stopped eating and sleeping, and suffered from serious weight loss. When he went to seek out treatment the VA feared he was acting out as a way of avoiding his next deployment. His pay was decreased after receiving an Article 15 and his health continues to go down hill. Having never personally gone through a struggle like the one the woman described I can only empathize with the absolute hopelessness she must have felt watching her husband deteriorate before her.
With as much as we now know about PTSD and with all the information available to us now, why do we continually throw road blocks in the way of our soldiers? Why do we look at PTSD as something that needs to hidden away or disregarded? It occurred to me that perhaps there was a fear of appearing weak or perhaps it has more to do with not wanting to acknowledge our humanity and mortality. I’ve never been on a battle field. I’ve never even fired gun. I can’t imagine the emotional and mental toll war must take on the young men and women who voluntarily place their lives in danger in order to better our lives. I will say this however with some certainty; we can’t expect any person to witness the things these brave citizens witness and expect it not to affect them in one manner or another. Of course they are affected and we need to come together as a country to acknowledge their sacrifice and be there for them when they have the courage to seek out help.
If you have noticed that you or someone you love may be experiencing symptoms of PTSD, please don’t hesitate to ask for assistance. Ask yourself if you are experiencing any of the following:
- Alienation from your family
- Any negative behavior that progressively worsens like anger
One important factor that you need to take into consideration is these problems will not go away by themselves and denial is not the answer. You need to take action and tackle the problem before it worsens.
Below are some resources that may help ease any concerns you have:
- Attend groups like Codependents Anonymous or AlAnon – They are offered at no cost and teach healthy coping skills.
- Contact your local NAMI office - You can find the contact by going onto the web site http://www.nami.org
- No Insurance – If you do not have insurance, call your local VA Hospital and inquire about counseling intervention for families. Go onto the web site at http://www.va.gov under “health benefits” for the closest VA hospital and inquire about family counseling and intervention.
- Call Churches – Call local churches to see if they have a Family of Veteran Support Group
- Call the VFW or American Legion – They have information on Family of Soldier Support Groups
- Contact the Military One Source – You can reach them at 1-800-342-9647 or at the web site http://www.militaryonesource.com. They can set you up with up to six confidential counseling sessions at NO COST. They can even perform the counseling over the phone if they feel it is necessary for the Veteran or for the Family.
- Call your veterans military unit to see if there are family support groups in your area.