For many years, there was a strong stigma attached to mental health. This was the case when it came to veterans returning from conflicts overseas. While the phenomenon was simply dismissed as “shell shock,” it was and is a very real issue that continues to afflict the veterans of today. According to a study conducted by the VA (Veteran’s Affairs) Suicide Prevention program, approximately 20 veterans take their lives each day. Civilian practitioners of health care often don’t inquire about military service, and as a result, it becomes difficult to treat and diagnose conditions such as PTSD and depression.
Mental Health & Veterans
Aside from civilian caregivers not inquiring about military service, many veterans are reluctant to seek help for these issues. Despite the normalization of mental health in recent years, the lingering stigma remains. Many individuals fear addressing these issues because they interpret it as a sign of weakness.
Recent studies have shown that returning veterans are in a significant amount of emotional anguish. 2,000 returning veterans from service in Afghanistan were diagnosed with PTSD. Of this number, only a little more than half sought treatment due to the underlying stigma of mental health.
Addressing the Issue Begins with Recognition
As with any problem that needs to be addressed, the first significant step is recognition. It’s not just a matter of veterans stepping up and asking to receive treatment. There needs to be a conscious effort on the part of medical care professionals to diagnose the problems that their patients might be having. The first major step is inquiring about past military service. While there’s a massive difference between depression and PTSD, the symptoms of both afflictions can look very similar.
It’s also important that patients suffering from both of these disorders be given a wide variety of options for treatment. While some people might be distrustful of psychiatric medications, there are alternatives. One of the most effective ways to deal with trauma-induced ailments such as PTSA and depression is through psychotherapy. These practitioners are taught to discuss these matters with their patients to better diagnose and understand the root of their ordeal.
If you know someone returning home from an overseas tour of duty, spend some time talking with them. Be willing to listen and offer a sympathetic ear to anything that might be on their mind.
If you’re interested in assisting with the care of veterans in the Sarasota area, SRQ Vets is a non-profit organization dedicated to looking after those who served. For more information and how you can help, visit us at srqvets.us.