Mental Health and PTSD in Veterans
This Veterans Day, we at Healthy365 are proud to honor those who have served our country in the armed forces. And we also take time to consider the mental health struggles, such as PTSD, that they may come home with after service. We’re sharing how common mental health concerns can be for veterans, and what can be done to help them.
What mental health issues do veterans face?
After the stress that comes with active service and possible military combat, it is not uncommon for veterans to experience a difficult transition to civilian life. According to an American Medical Association study published in JAMA Psychiatry, “nearly 1 in 4 active duty members showed signs of a mental health condition.” One such condition is depression, a mood disorder that can cause emotional numbness, persistent sadness and a lack of overall motivation. In some cases, thoughts of suicide or self harm may occur.
Depression can also co-occur with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which can result in effects such as trouble sleeping, nightmares, anger, feeling jumpy and alcohol/drug abuse. Another mental health concern for veterans is a Traumatic Brain Injury, where a significant blow to the head causes long-lasting headaches, fatigue, memory issues or changes in mood.
How common is PTSD?
The JAMA study found that the rate of PTSD to be 15 times higher than in civilians. And according to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA), the frequency of PTSD can depend on the era of their service. About 11-20% of veterans who served in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom show signs of PTSD in a given year. About 12% of Gulf War veterans have PTSD in a given year, and about 30% of Vietnam veterans have had PTSD in their lifetime.
Additional factors in the commonality of mental health struggles for veterans may include their role in duty, the politics around the war and where it was fought. For some veterans, PTSD symptoms may start as soon as service ends, since it is common to experience difficulty transitioning after a traumatic event. If the symptoms persist for longer than a few months, it may be time to seek help. For other veterans, their symptoms of PTSD may come on later, or they may come and go.
What treatments are available for PTSD?
Treatments for PTSD can include talk therapy and medications like antidepressants. SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) are traditionally used to treat depression and anxiety, and have also been shown to be quite helpful in the treatment of PTSD. Therapy with a licensed mental health professional is the most common form of treatment for PTSD in veterans, which can help them process the traumatic events and overcome the negative effects that come with it. Some of the most common counseling options include cognitive behavioral and exposure therapies. If you are seeking out local assistance for your mental health, Healthy365 Support Navigators can help connect you.
How are the families of veterans affected?
The symptoms of PTSD can affect not just the individual who has experienced a traumatic event, but their family as well. According to the VA, veterans with PTSD may have trouble with trust, attachment and communication, which can greatly impact their relationships with spouses, children and other family members. After a prolonged deployment or time of service, families may be ready to have their lives “back to normal.” But with help from a professional who has experience treating PTSD, perhaps for both the veteran and their family, a new sense of normal can be found together.
If you are in need of assistance in your or your family’s mental wellness, contact Healthy365 online or at 317-468-4231 so that our Navigators can get you connected with local resources to support your needs.