This July 4th will mean picnics and fireworks for millions of Americans…but for many of our veterans it will mean terror, fear, and embarrassment. Many vets return from overseas with PTSD. When they hear cars backfire, firecrackers going off, or other loud noises, they panic and find themselves reacting as if they were still under fire – dropping to the ground and covering their heads. Even a door slamming can trigger flashbacks. After that, the nightmares start up along with becoming hypervigilance during the day.
Studies have shown that PTSD, depression and other mental health conditions are more common among military personnel than we tend to think. Anywhere from 10 to 25 percent of service members have a mental health disorder, although some are not as severe as others, such as anxiety or mild depression.
PTSD is a hidden disability, a war wound of the mind, emotions and feelings. Veterans may be reluctant to seek out medical help for their PTSD, but the truth is, it responds well to treatment. None of us would hesitate to get a physical wound looked at, so why are we so fearful about getting a mental wound treated?
There are so many ways PTSD expresses itself with Veterans. Emotional numbness comes about when one learns to suppress emotion as a survival tactic. Even though your buddy just died, you are still expected to go back out and do what you’re told to do. While that may keep you alive in the war zone, it can be very hard on relationships when it’s time to go home.
This July 4th, if the veteran you know doesn’t want to go to the fireworks celebration with you, please understand. With treatment, the situation should improve, and maybe things will be a bit more normal next year! Happy 4th of July!