Note: This post was originally published June 27, 2012 in honor of PTSD Awareness Day. It has become one of my most visited posts, so I’ll be continually updating it and the resource list at the bottom
PTSD is almost a buzz word for my generation. Public understanding of the disorder is hugely important to reduce the negative stigma surrounding it and to further research into treatment options. Many people with diverse backgrounds are suffering from PTSD, but my reason for posting is to reach out to veterans, active duty or not, who are not seeking help. Just a few of the things I’ve heard from soldiers relating to combat stress: they “don’t believe in PTSD,” “PTSD just means you’re weak,” or they believe that seeking treatment will ruin their military career.
Image Credit: The U.S. Army
Men and women in uniform today are not ignorant about PTSD: Nightmares, heavy drinking, avoidance of things that remind you of combat, hyperarousal. Most combat vets will experience at least a couple of these symptoms while readjusting to life at home. A smaller percentage of them will continue experiencing them for a long time.
Still there remains an overwhelming attitude in the military community that only the weak cannot “just deal” with the trauma of combat, or even that psychology is fake and PTSD isn’t real. Ladies and Gentlemen, that is denial. It isn’t just saying, “I don’t have PTSD. That’s something other people have.” It is flat out denying the existence of the disorder. Statistics suggest most combat vets will not develop PTSD. All the better reason to be a support instead of a hurdle for your peers who do. If you do one thing, stop perpetuating this lie. Your brothers and sisters in arms are taking their own lives at an alarming rate. Encourage them to get help. Support them. They need you.
A common reason that active duty service members don’t seek treatment is fear that it will ruin their military career. In a very uncertain economic time, service members may feel they must hide how they’re feeling and push forward to retain their career, particularly when they are concerned their counseling notes will be shared with their chain of command. If you need help and are concerned that seeking treatment or being honest in treatment will affect your military career, there are FREE, completely confidential counseling services available to you that are not military-connected and will not report anything to anyone. They are sometimes hard to find. Some of the more well-known ones may turn you away. Keep pushing. Keep trying.
Not Alone (now known as Courage Beyond) is an excellent resource. “Not Alone provides programs, resources and services to warriors and families impacted by combat stress and PTSD through a confidential and anonymous community.” They have a crisis hotline, personal stories and blogs, videos, and a very active online community. They offer “e-clinics,” online groups and FREE, in-person, confidential counseling in 17 states. At Ease (available only in Nebraska), do not even require your real name just to ensure your privacy in the hope that you will seek treatment and start living a happier, healthier life. You can also call 1-877-WAR-VETS 24/7 to talk with a combat veteran who has been there.
Ignoring your own PTSD symptoms makes you a ticking time bomb. Think you can “suck it up” and it won’t affect anyone else? You’re wrong. Effects of your PTSD on your spouse — discusses issues like not being able to show affection to your spouse and parenting problems. How your PTSD may effect your child — this includes items like avoiding activities with your child or avoiding being affectionate, as well as children mimicking PTSD symptoms and a high rate of depression and anxiety.
AboutFace is a collection of personal interview videos with veterans who volunteered to talk about their PTSD. They are men and women from all branches who served in different wars. They all answer the following in their videos: How I knew I had PTSD, How PTSD affects the people you love, Why I didn’t ask for help right away, When I knew I needed help, What treatment was like for me, How treatment helps me, and My advice to you. One that really struck me was Damien Holmes explaining how memory loss is the primary reason he sought treatment — simple things, like forgetting where he put his keys.
You know that smell that brings you back? That antsy feeling you get when you’re in a crowd and one more person just bumped into you? That sound that snaps all your senses to attention? Feel like the world doesn’t make sense or the things you used to believe in don’t matter? Your symptoms do not have to be the worst case scenario for them to affect your quality of life (and that of the people who love you). Even if your life has not spiraled completely out of control, it can be better. You deserve better. You deserve help. You deserve life.
If you’re seeking information on Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as they relate/overlap, this is a good starting point.
More FREE resources (feel free to post in the comments and I’ll add here):
Restore Warriors is a Web-based tool created by the Wounded Warrior Project. It’s packed with self-help tools for PTSD, combat stress, depression, and other invisible injuries. You’ll find so much information here to help you. Take your time looking around this site.
Military Pathways Mental Health Screening: It’s completely free, online, and will give you results, recommendations and resources immediately. No need to sign up for anything.
Veterans Crisis Line: Call, Chat, or Text. If you’re uncomfortable talking to someone over the phone, try the chat feature.
Real Warriors: Mostly self-help articles about resiliency, but also features a live chat option
After Deployment: Helpful information about PTSD, TBI, financial stress, physical injuries, military sexual trauma, and many other important topics.
Apps for coping, such as BioZen (a biofeedback app), LifeArmor, Breath2Relax and more. Check these out. There are some really good ones.
Stop Soldier Suicide has grown into an excellent place to get help. It’s an organization run by veterans for veterans. Not only can they help you get healthy, you can start a local chapter in your town, too.
Make the Connection has some personal stories from vets dealing with PTSD, plus self-help and other resources like free health screenings.
This post was last updated September 2014.