PTSD Awareness: Knowledge Can Save Veteran Lives

Written by: 
Samantha Epstein

Twenty percent of the 1.7 million men and women who served in Iraq and Afghanistan have been diagnosed with PTSD. There are many veterans out there that have not been diagnosed, so the number of those afflicted by the devastating disability is likely much higher than 1.7 million. The veterans who are diagnosed and seek treatment often cannot find an option that actually heals their wounds.

June is PTSD Awareness month. This is an opportunity to learn about the disability and to break down the stigmas associated with PTSD. Why should we do this? Because our veterans deserve to have support and understanding. They also need access to better treatment options, like service dogs, because medication and therapy do not work for everyone. There is no “one-size fits all” remedy.

Iraq and Afghanistan Veteran

What Is PTSD?

Simply stated, PTSD is a disability that occurs after a traumatic event. The symptoms are severely debilitating and can last long after the trauma occurs.

Why Does It Affect Veterans?

It is no mystery that military personnel are exposed to stressful/dangerous environments and situations. Combat veterans can never shake the hyper-vigilant state resulting from living on the front line. Witnessing indescribable violence and experiencing terrifying accidents can alter brain function. Some of our veterans are victims of military sexual trauma. Veterans cannot forget these experiences. The trauma is so agonizing many cannot function or even leave their homes.

What Are The Symptoms?

PTSD can present itself in many different ways. Some of the symptoms include:

  • Guilt
  • Emotional Numbness
  • Insomnia
  • Anger
  • Anxiety/Panic Attacks
  • Isolation
  • Depression
  • Flashbacks
  • Hyper-vigiliance

Most people experience intense emotional responses at some point in their lives. Veterans with PTSD, however, are continually living with these feelings and symptoms, over and over again. It is almost as if someone is hitting the replay button on the veteran’s traumatic experience. They find triggers in everyday situations, making it nearly impossible for them to lead healthy, fulfilling lives. Soon, they begin to avoid crowds and places they once loved. Many report only leaving their homes to attend their VA appointments.

What Can Happen When PTSD Goes Untreated?

With many veterans unable to receive adequate treatment, they lose their ability to cope. Living seems impossible, and they turn to suicide for relief. According the Department of Veteran Affairs, roughly 20 veterans a day take their own lives; this number may be under-reported as information was not pulled on every state.

How You Can Help

Individuals can create awareness on PTSD by discussing the topic with others on social media platforms and in-person. Participating in meaningful conversations can spark interest and develop knowledge. Organizations such as K9s For Warriors operate to assist veterans wanting a PTSD treatment option other than traditional therapy and medication. By supplying trained service dogs to veterans with PTSD, K9s For Warriors has been very effective at helping disabled veterans recover from the invisible wounds of war.