Somewhere there’s a man who can’t sleep at night without medication—his night terrors won’t allow it. In another house, there’s a woman who is scared to hug her children, she’s afraid she may harm them. Let’s not forget the wife who is terrified in her home; when her husband has flashbacks he gets violent.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a genuine concern for many of our military war veterans and their families. PTSD can develop after a soldier experiences a traumatic life event. Combat, violent attacks, and a host of war-specific tragedies can lead to the development of PTSD. After the traumatic event, many veterans experience stress reactions that over time do not go away. Many don’t even recognize that what they are experiencing has a name.
For the sake of these men and women who often suffer in silence, or have families that are torn apart by this disorder, it is important that we recognize and make people aware of the devastation PTSD brings, especially when it’s undiagnosed and untreated.
A few stats about PTSD
- Approximately 2.3 million American veterans have been deployed to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars (the number continually grows).
- Numbers have shown that at least 20% of those soldiers have been diagnosed with PTSD. (Do the math, that’s 460,000 affected Americans; and keep in mind the numbers are growing as you are reading this).
- 50% of those living with PTSD, don’t seek treatment.
- There are recent statistics that show that the rate of veteran suicide is much higher now than during the Vietnam era.
The Invisible Wound
A soldier can come back home from war and seem completely okay on the outside. He or she has no physical wounds, cuts, or bruises. For this reason PTSD is often referred to as the “Invisible Wound”. Many veterans are resistant in their acknowledgement of being mentally unwell, especially if they are physically well. Family and friends don’t always have a realistic expectation of just how many mental challenges one can face upon returning home from war.
It is a very unfortunate reality for many people, whether veterans or not, that we tend to look at health as one-dimensional. We think that we are healthy as long as our physical selves are okay; but in reality we need to understand that our mental health is essential to our overall well-being.
PTSD is not an anomaly
Being the wife of a veteran, I have witnessed the emotional impact that PTSD has on a soldier, his or her spouse, and their children. Living on base, it was not uncommon to see soldiers who were emotionally defeated and most certainly in trouble. Men and women were committing suicide, harming or even killing their spouse and children. It was devastating to witness.
When my husband and I returned to our hometown after his return from Afghanistan, we sought help from the local VA hospital. The magnitude of devastation I saw is something I cannot really put in to words, but it haunts me to this day.
There were a number of veterans just hanging around the exterior of hospital—they were homeless. My husband and I spent hours just listening to the stories of these men and women, many of them young, not beyond their 20s. One man in particular stood out to me. Even now, months removed, I can picture the tears that ran down his face as he shared his story. He told us about his troubles with PTSD and how he was on more than ten different medications to help manage his mental and physical injuries. He shared how in the military, trying desperately to cope, he developed a dependency on alcohol, how he had horrible night terrors about seeing his friends die. He told us how he watched as a fellow solider, attempting to save him, had been killed instead. He talked of the physical injuries he sustained. He shared how PTSD had affected his family—how it prevented him from even being in the same house as them, forcing him in to homelessness. He was only 22 years old.
Recalling his story brings me to tears. Sadly, his story is not an anomaly. It is just one of many.
What you can do
PTSD can lead to suicide, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, and crime. It can compound feelings of guilt, shame, abandonment, helplessness, rejection, fear, and even nervousness. It’s a real problem for the men and women of the military that we must address and make more visible.
If you love someone who is suffering in silence, first acknowledge that what they are experiencing is real. Be patient. This experience may be terrifying for you, but it is equally, if not more, terrifying for your loved one. Try hard to really listen. Learn everything you can about PTSD and use the resources and supports you find. Take the proper steps to seek help to take care of your wellness and that of your family member.
If you are suffering in silence, battling invisible wounds, know that help is available to you. The wounds you cannot see matter just as much as the ones you do see. Know that with treatment, you can begin to heal.
If you think you may have PTSD visit the website below for steps you can take to seek proper treatment.
Learn the basics about PTSD here:
Read more strategies for helping loved ones at:
Spread awareness by sharing this article on social media and don’t forget that Friday, June 27, 2014 is PTSD Screening Day.
Information used in this article was taken from http://www.nami.org, http://www.ptsd.va.gov, and http://www.cbsnews.com/news/only-half-the-vets-with-ptsd-are-getting-treatment-report/
The Stone Foundation is a community of counseling professionals who are committed to helping you live your best life. If we can assist you as you and your family heal, please contact us at 410.296.2004 or visit www.thestonefoundation.com. We are here for you and want you to know that there is always hope. Please know that this article deals with a very serious matter and is intended for general, educational purposes only. This article, and others like it, should not and are not meant to take the place of professional counseling services or medical care.
Victoria Johnson is a Communications major who maintains honors status at the Anne Arundel Community College. She currently writes for The Baltimore Times and has written for the AACC school newspaper, The Campus Current. Victoria’s talent stems beyond her writing and schooling. She is also the co-founder of God’s Jewels, a charitable organization designed to benefit individuals in Africa who seek spiritual enlightenment.