Veterans Day is approaching, and we should take time and stop and give recognition to the ones who helped in maintaining our freedom of worship and freedom of living in a great nation like the United States. Let’s remember the many veterans who return and who are wounded - not only on the outward appearance, but also the ones who have developed inner/unseen wounds. Let’s talk about PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), which causes many different problems for so many veterans.
You have 100 different veterans and 100 different problems. The problems are what we call stressors. What are stressors? A stressor is something that makes you worried or anxious: a source of stress. In combat there are numerous valid stressors. In non-combat situations there are a lot too. Any experience that threatens your life, or someone else’s, can cause PTSD. These types of events are sometimes called trauma. During this kind of event, you may not have any control over what’s happening, and you may feel very afraid. Anyone who has gone through any experience like this can develop PTSD. Trauma can take many forms. A traumatic event could be something that happened to you, or something you saw happen to someone else. Seeing the effects of a horrible or violent event can also be traumatic — for example, being a first responder after a terrorist attack. Combat and other military experiences, sexual or physical assault, learning about the violent or accidental death or injury of a loved one, child sexual or physical abuse, serious accidents like a car wreck, or a plane crash. Natural disasters like a fire, tornado, hurricane, flood, or earthquake. Terrorist attacks. These types of traumatic events can cause PTSD. Some symptoms of PTSD include:
Emotional Symptoms: anxiety, anger, depression, irritability, sadness.
Physical Symptoms: tiredness, increased perspiration, high or low blood pressure, trouble digesting food.
Stress affects our autonomic nervous system, endocrine system and immune system; these physical systems are all interdependent on each other. How we perceive stress plays an important role in how our bodies respond physically to it. High amounts of inflammatory hormones are dumped into our systems in response to stressful or traumatic situations, but these hormones are released even at the memory of trauma. So PTSD can be thought of as an emotional stress overload. I have a friend who served 13 months in southern Afghanistan and while there the base had approximately 160 rocket attacks. At the time, not knowing, PTSD was starting to develop. While we thought things would get better, they got worse due to his oldest son being hurt badly in an accident, and then a few years later his mother killed in another accident. Instead of being able to try to get this under control, these accidents happened and put him back into the same position he was in after returning from Afghanistan. Any one of these tragedies can cause PTSD, let alone facing it from a war zone.
The clergy should know how to face this problem that is becoming a national epidemic. First, we need to know the difference between PTSD, TBI (traumatic brain injury), how to use intervention, suicide and suicide prevention, military disability, substance use in the military and military families. What is resilience? Mostly what we are dealing with in any PTSD is psychological resilience which Wikipedia states is the ability to successfully cope with a crisis and to return to pre-crisis status quickly. Resilience exists when the person uses "mental processes and behaviors in promoting personal assets and protecting an individual from the potential negative effects of stressors." In simpler terms, psychological resilience exists in people who develop psychological and behavioral capabilities that allow them to remain calm during crises/chaos and to move on from the incident without long-term negative consequences. Psychological resilience is an evolutionary advantage that most people have and use to manage normal stressors.
Suicide today is still at an all-time high. A VA report for June 2018 shows the total is 20.6 suicides every day. Of those, 16.8 were veterans and 3.8 were active-duty servicemembers, guardsmen and reservists, the report states. That amounts to 6,132 veterans and 1,387 servicemembers who died by suicide in one year. Drug use is up due to the use of opioids. How can we fight this if we do not educate ourselves on this matter? Lives are at stake and families need to be put back together again.
Let’s start the fight and educate ourselves in military resilience. Military resiliency training refers to the training programs that support military personnel, their families and veterans in the development of mental, physical, emotional and behavioral toughness. Resiliency training is designed to help people cope with adversity, adapt to change and overcome challenges. This is a time to start reaching out to our veterans and their families. We need to educate our staff and let us reach out to not only veterans but the other population who has suffered by being stricken with this unseen illness.