“The men would break away from the group and run toward the cliffs. They would rather jump and face certain death than the hazards of being a prisoner of war.”, I have heard my grandfather retell this story many times, as if it happened yesterday. I can only image what it was like for my grandfather to witness this during the Korean War. The scars of war are often invisible to passersby, and too often harshly evident to those closest to the service member. Post-traumatic stress disorder is a vicious war injury, and it spares no victim. Individuals often stuffer in silence, and the symptoms are not easily recognized.
June is National Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder month, and today June 27 is National Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Day. The goal is to help service members, family, and friends recognize the symptoms of PTSD before it is too late. Last year more service members took their own lives at a rate higher than those killed in combat. It was recently estimated that as many as 350 active duty service members committed suicide last year, and veteran suicide rates are estimated as high as one an hour. These statistics are devastating. In the case of suicide, the life of the service member is already lost but what about the anguish of family and friends left behind? It is devastating that so many lives are affected.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recently published an article regarding the importance of mental care for military children and their families. Studies have shown that one out of every four children of an active-duty service member deal with symptoms of depression. Issues like these could lead to longer term behavioral and mental health problems. My estranged husband is a combat veteran from Operation Iraqi Freedom and currently remains on active duty. I have legitimate concern regarding the long term consequences this will have our impressionable son. Will my son be one of the children who report trouble sleeping or excessive worry? As a parent you want to protect your child from world, but how do you protect a child from a parents career? The affects of PTSD are not just visible in the service member, it spills into all aspects of their lives.
Thankfully, there are legislators like (R) Representative Andy Barr. He represents the 6th Congressional District of Kentucky and recognized the need to address issues facing military personnel, veterans, and their families. He has formed a coalition in his district so that individuals have a way of presenting issues so they might be properly addressed. The coalition is spearheaded by veteran Tyler White who wants to use his military experience to benefit others. One of the first issues on his agenda was addressing the current PTSD suicide rate, hopefully many other legislators will follow suit.
There are so many ways you can be involved with PTSD awareness. The first is reaching out to those in need. There are many resources available through the Department of Veterans Affairs for family and friends to learn about the symptoms of PTSD, and how to properly address them.
Recognizing the symptoms of PTSD early can lead to more successful treatment outcomes. There are organizations such as Give an Hour, Joining Forces, and the Wounded Warrior Project which help returning military members, veterans, and their families. If you very adventurous why not run a Tough Mudder to help benefit the Wounded Warrior Project? They are raised over 5 million dollars to date. These are just a few of the many ways you can be involved, and help others return from the shadows and darkness that is PTSD.