My paternal grandad served in the Philippines during World War II, and the entire time I was growing up, he talked about his service — a lot. So much so, in fact, that a common family joke among my parents, aunts and uncles was, “Dad spent three years in the Philippines, and Mom spent 40.”
To those who knew him, it was clear that wherever he was, whether he was in a good mood or bad, working or relaxing, the war was with him. A part of him never left those islands, where he and others fought, day after day, to evade capture and survive in austere — sometimes horrific — conditions.
Still, Grandpa was of a generation that was somewhat skeptical of what we know as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He was the epitome of the strong, self-reliant, supremely confident individual who chose to handle his own issues, without help.
But Grandpa’s skepticism didn’t mean he didn’t suffer from post-traumatic stress nor change the fact that, had today’s range of treatments been available during his lifetime, he might have benefitted from them.
June 27 is PTSD Awareness Day, which comes at the end of PTSD Awareness Month. It’s a time to think about and talk about what PTSD is, the detrimental effects it can have on the quality of life of the individuals dealing with it, and the treatments and self-help options that hold the potential to improve quality of life.
A good first step is learning more about PTSD.
The official website of the Military Health System, health.mil, outlines the symptoms of PTSD, and includes an online self-assessment designed for service members and veterans. It’s available at https://www.health.mil/Military-Health-Topics/Conditions-and-Treatments/Mental-Health/Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Center for PTSD website, at https://www.ptsd.va.gov/index.asp, also has resources available, and includes information about treatment options, online courses and stories from veterans who have benefitted from treatment.
It’s no secret that many service members and veterans who could benefit from PTSD therapies don’t seek them out. A 2014 study by the VA showed that, while estimates of between 20 and 30 percent of the 5 million veterans using VA care could benefit from PTSD therapies, only 8 percent had actually been diagnosed. The VA’s follow-up surveys showed that many veterans either didn’t know the signs of PTSD, didn’t believe the treatments would work for them or believed there was still a stigma attached to asking for help.
Were he still with us, Grandpa probably would have fit into all three of those categories. (Truth be told, he probably would be at least a little steamed at me for writing about him and PTSD in the same article.)
But for those service members and veterans who suspect they may have PTSD but are hesitant to ask for help, I’ll say to you what I would say to him:
You sacrificed a lot for this country. You deserve relief.
(Editor’s note: If you or someone you know is a veteran suffering from PTSD who needs immediate help, the VA urges you to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by dialing 800.273.8255 and pressing 1 for the Veterans Crisis Line.)