If you think about it, the veterans we honor this Veterans Day are actually survivors. They have come through terrific conflicts, hardships, pain, injury, devastating losses of comrades. Theirs is a vast sacrifice and they deserve every ounce of honor and support we can give them, on this day and any other.
But as we watch parades and take part in celebrations, we need to remember that there are all kinds of veterans and after the marching bands fall silent and the bunting comes down, some veterans need help.
Like soldiers who’ve survived wars, survivors of abuse are veterans. They too have been through conflicts and into untold depths of agony and despair. They too have faced staggering losses.
Survivors and veterans are prey to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD
PTSD strikes those who have survived a terrifying physical or emotional event. Not everyone who survives such an event develops PTSD, but enough combat veterans and victims of abuse do experience extreme symptoms from the trauma, that PTSD has become a well known condition.
A couple of data points about PTSD
- More than 3 million children in the US are believed to have PTSD.
- A major study by the VA, the Surgeon General and the Congressional Research Service estimates at least 20% of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have PTSD. (20% of 2.3 million veterans is 460,000 individuals from these two wars alone who may have PTSD.)
Recovering from PTSD
PTSD is a condition that many live with for years. But it does get better with time and with treatment.
First though, the sufferer has to know the symptoms and then they have to be willing to talk about it. Unfortunately there are some social factors that stand in the way of recovery.
- For soldiers, it’s the macho factor. The toughness it takes to survive in battle can morph into a refusal to accept that anything is wrong. And the military culture can pressure sufferers to “buck up.”
- For abused children, the stumbling block is the fear of not being worthy of love. The stories told to them by their abusers lead them to believe it’s all their fault. In an effort to remain lovable, they can internalize and hide their true thoughts and memories for years.