Fourth of July is a time to celebrate with loved ones, but for some it also might be a struggle just to get through the day. For many veterans, the Fourth of July brings back terrifying memories. The Veterans Administration estimates that nearly one out of every three veterans returning from combat operations overseas is suffering from the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder.
According to RAND Center for Military, over 2.3 million American veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, with at least 20 percent having PTSD and/or depression. While so many suffer from these disorders, over 50 percent do not seek help or treatment. Of the half that do seek treatment, only half of those get minimally adequate treatment. Seven percent of these veterans suffer from both PTSD and traumatic brain injury, which can cause a host of physical, cognitive, social, emotional and behavioral effects.
The sound of fireworks can often sound like gunshots and explosions, potentially causing a trigger in veterans which can bring back vivid memories associated with the sound. It can be a challenge for our returning military to deal with this because of the difficultly in treating PTSD. Many of my fellow vets were diagnosed by the VA Hospital and prescribed all sorts of medication, some with side effects worse than the PTSD. For me the 4th brings back memories of a friend I served with in the Marines who was killed by a roadside bomb while he was serving in Iraq.
In today’s society, there is a negative view of those Veterans suffering from PTSD. We have a few things to thank for that. Not only does Hollywood help create a negative image, but those of us in the media don’t help either. Between movies and TV shows depicting a few extreme cases, we have trained society to believe that this is the norm. This has created the far too common misconception that all PTSD sufferers are violent and unstable. However, this could not be further from the truth as most sufferers experience a variety of symptoms with violence being one of the least common.
There is a variety of more common symptoms experienced by veterans ranging from nightmares and other memory disturbances to having trouble connecting emotionally with others. I deal with PTSD from my time in the military, and I have never been violent or unstable; however I do struggle with nightmares and until recently have had trouble forming relationships due to my inability to connect emotionally.
Unfortunately, I’ve been on the receiving end of some of these misconceptions and at one point I even was laid off from a job once my employer found out about my PTSD. A few months ago I was asked to either release my medical records or see an approved counselor solely on the fact that this company discovered I was diagnosed with PTSD. The decision was based on this individual’s perception created by society and not on the facts. This was the first time in my life I was stereotyped and my heart goes out to those of you who experience this on a daily basis, because it is not only demeaning but insulting to my character.
Many veterans struggle to start their new lives after leaving the military. As a result of the extensive cultural difference between civilian life and that of the military it can be a difficult transition that is only complicated by the effect of PTSD. There are many treatment options available ranging from traditional concealing to more cutting edge treatment such as hyperbaric or pressure treatment. However the military trains its troops to deal with an issue on the spot and move past. This training leads to veterans choosing to believe they should be able to handle their issues on their own. For many this just isn’t possible and they need the support and patients of their family and friends.
This holiday, people need to take time to not only remember why we are celebrating, but remember those who have sacrificed and in many cases continue to sacrifice. Veterans dealing with PTSD need our friendship and support in order to help them heal or at least minimize the issues they deal with daily. I would challenge you to move past the stereotype being established in our media and realize that the majority of PTSD sufferers are not violent or dangerous.
Editor in Chief, Darin Hinman, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.