It’s Not Always Violence that Harms: Three Reasons Veterans Need Access to Trauma-Informed Care
Even if a veteran comes home without developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), s/he will likely know someone who did. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that more than 13% of Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom veterans have developed PTSD. One recent article about a mental health clinic in Richmond, Alaska explores the kind of treatment available to returning veterans with PTSD. In support of their work, we’ve compiled a list of three reasons why veterans need immediate, local access to trauma-informed care.
- You don’t have to see combat to come home with trauma. Although many associate traumatic experiences with a first hand and often violent episode, the truth is that trauma does not require such drama to be long-lasting and detrimental. Sometimes just hearing about another person’s experience is enough to trigger a traumatic response that, if ignored, can develop into PTSD. Further, a percentage of people come into the military already having experienced some kind of trauma from which they may or may not have recovered. Trauma doesn’t have to originate in military service to be compounded or exacerbated by it, and regardless of its origin our veterans deserve everything we can give them, including treatment, as they move forward in life beyond the military.
- PTSD affects the whole person. People who develop PTSD as a response to a first- or second-hand traumatic experience are likely to develop other physical ailments or injuries as a result. For example, traumatic experiences often entail a deep disturbance in an individual’s real or perceived ability to maintain their own life and safety. As a result a veteran who has developed PTSD may develop trust issues, distancing themselves from friends or loved ones they previously maintained close relationships with. Veterans may also try to manage this feeling of vulnerability brought to the surface by trauma and kept there by PTSD through avoidance, refusing to talk about the experiences they’ve had or witnessed. Other common symptoms of PTSD include increased anxiety levels and mood swings as well as an avoidance of any places, people, objects or activities that remind them of the trauma. Trauma-informed care seeks to rebuild a person’s ability to trust others and themselves again and is essential to any veteran’s recovery from a traumatic experience.
- Access to treatment may literally be a life-or-death issue. Failure to address and treat PTSD can have a devastating effect on veterans. In its most mild manifestation, prolonged PTSD may mean that an individual is never able to develop the kind of close, intimate relationships s/he once had before entering the service, always too guarded to let anyone get too close. In more extreme cases, people experiencing uncontrollable flashbacks to the trauma or unable to overcome the anxiety it caused may turn to drugs or alcohol in order to numb themselves to the experience or the symptoms they experience as a result.
After putting their lives on the line to protect and serve our country, our veterans deserve the best treatment available. Unless we can guarantee our veterans the right to seek out the best trauma-informed care in their location, we are selling them and the future of our country short.