June is PTSD Awareness Month, and the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs are raising awareness about the problem, along with providing tools, information and assistance for service members who may be dealing with PTSD.
Of course, PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder) does not only impact vets. PTSD, by definition, can follow any traumatic event. As I have written before, I define traumatic event as one in which “The individual’s ability to integrate his/her emotional experience is overwhelmed or the individual experiences (subjectively) a threat to life, bodily integrity, or sanity.” (Pearlman & Saakvitne, 1995, p. 60).
Raising awareness about PTSD and the impact on veterans is important. I feel it is also crucial to acknowledge that many suffer from PTSD as a result of sexual assault, domestic violence, and all forms of childhood abuse.
Research suggests that veterans are more likely to develop PTSD when they have had prior traumatic experiences in childhood. It is also important to mention that PTSD in the military is not only related to conditions of combat. Sexual assault is a significant problem in the military. Even though military sexual trauma is far more common in women Veterans, over half of all Veterans with military sexual trauma are men. This is because there are many more male Veterans than there are females.
The Department of Veterans Affairs provides the following statistics regarding PTSD and the military:
Experts think PTSD occurs:
- In about 11-20% of Veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars (Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom), or in 11-20 Veterans out of 100.
- In as many as 10% of Gulf War (Desert Storm) Veterans, or in 10 Veterans out of 100.
- In about 30% of Vietnam Veterans, or about 30 out of 100 Vietnam Veterans.
Among Veterans using VA health care, about:
- 23 out of 100 women (23%) reported sexual assault when in the military.
- 55 out of 100 women (55%) and 38 out of 100 men (38%) have experienced sexual harassment when in the military.
The barriers to care that any trauma survivor experiences apply to Veterans as well. In addition, Veterans may have specific belief systems that may make it hard for them to acknowledge needing help, as reflected in the following quote and video:
I never talked about it. I just tried to deal with my life ’cause I was supposed to be a man. Stop whining, just do your thing. Get a job, get married, you’ll be all right… lost them all because of my illness until I went into the VA hospital and got the help I needed. -Richard Adams – US Navy (1971 — 1972) SN, Ammunition Transporter Vietnam.
Want to get involved in raising awareness? Here are some ideas: