Here's what vets should do for PTSD Awareness Day

Phil Briggs
June 27, 2018 - 1:23 pm

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It’s PTSD Awareness Day- so veteran to veteran, the best advice I can give is, “ignore the news.”

I’m not saying this because I believe the news is fake, or that informing yourself about mental health and suicide is a waste of time.  But, after interviewing veterans, doctors and VA officials, I have come to understand that our news cycle often does more harm than good.

Look at the stories over the last month:

  • The news of a veteran in crisis, lighting himself on fire at the Georgia State Capitol. 
  • The deaths of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade
  • The VA’s annual National Suicide Data Report, which told us that roughly 20 veterans per day die by suicide. 
  • The articles that analyze the differences between veterans receiving health care and those who are not.
  • The data which questions whether suicide deaths are more prevalent in Active Duty, Reserve or National Guard?

Bottom line- all of this data can be sliced and diced more ways than veggies at a Japanese steak house.

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But the fact remains, each time the stories are reported it has a net effect on the veteran community.  A point reinforced by a conversation I recently had with Dr. Shauna Springer, Suicide Prevention Senior Advisor for the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS).  “This past weekend, I joined a group of Marines from two units who came together to reconnect with their tribe and grieve the loss of their fallen brothers, whether due to combat or suicide,” Springer said.  “Many expressed frustration and helplessness in regards to the recent barrage of news reports about veteran suicide. They pointed out how this feels demoralizing and drives a false and damaging narrative of “the broken veteran.”

Denise Rohan, The American Legion's  National Commander, described how veterans have felt this frustration for generations, “During the First World War, military psychiatrists noted that “shell shocked” soldiers treated with the support of their comrades near the frontlines had a higher likelihood of recovery.  In contrast, the soldiers who were evacuated from their units and placed in hospitals were more likely to develop chronic symptoms and were eventually discharged from the military.”"

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So as we enter another year of the Global War on Terrorism, what can we do on National PTSD Awareness Day?

Dr. Springer explained, “Warriors need to hear that they are irreplaceable assets to society who can return from war and use what they have learned in the military to contribute in meaningful ways.”

Rohan added, “I ask each of you reach out and check on your fellow veterans. Connect with them and help them feel supported."

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"Grab coffee with an old friend, call someone you served with to catch up, host a unit reunion BBQ, or go for a hike with a fellow post member,” Rohan explained.

Note: None of those suggestions involve dwelling on the news.

Reading stories about suicide data, is often akin to measuring our self worth by that photo taken during our "awkward" years.

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At the end of the day it’s just a snapshot of time.

And over time, with the help of family or friends, we all grow, change, heal and come out better than we were back then.

 

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