America's silent war with mental health BY JAKE JOHNSON

Graphic by David Olsen.

Sometimes the biggest battles our troops can face aren’t on the battlefield but in their minds.


Millions of veterans return from war every year facing many challenges, including questions of housing, employment and relationships. However, one aspect that often goes unnoticed is the veterans’ mental health.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, more commonly referred to as PTSD, is one of the most prevalent mental health risks that veterans struggle with after returning home from deployment. According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, at least 10 percent of those who return home from service will experience some form of PTSD, which could include reliving events from their service, negative outlooks, depression and hyperarousal.


Although 10 percent may seem like a small percentage of the military, this only accounts for those who are diagnosed with the disorder from a professional. “People with PTSD present a range of symptoms, the cause of which may be overlooked or undiagnosed as having resulted from past trauma,” said mental health clinic Sidran Institute.


As is the case with other major mental health conditions, PTSD is often underrated or mistaken for another condition. Anxiety that stems from this disorder may simply be diagnosed as generalized anxiety disorder.  PTSD-fueled depression can also be mistreated.


Suffering with a mental health condition such as PTSD and having it go undiagnosed can lead to a plethora of even bigger issues. Because the disorder stems from a trauma or experience that  has scarred them, PTSD can consume the individual, resulting in violence, substance abuse and/or suicidal tendencies.


Fortunately, there are many ways to relieve and ease the disorder. The first treatment technique often recommended by professionals is counseling. Therapists across the nation specialize in combating PTSD by challenging thought processes, walking their patients through traumatic events and explaining behaviors that stem from the disorder. Though this process is gradual, and often far more challenging, it can be rewarding in the long run.


Counseling may not be the only option to someone who is seeking treatment. Depending on the severity of the traumatic event, or how an individual processes the event itself, medication may be the next step toward relief from the disorder. Many doctors prescribe a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, or SSRI, to aid in anxious thoughts, depressive episodes and sleep disorders.


While PTSD has long been an underrated result from serving in the military, the disorder has an ever-growing profile. The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs reports that “in 2010, Congress named June 27 PTSD Awareness Day. In 2014, the Senate designated the full month of June as National PTSD Awareness.” This dedication helps U.S. citizens become more aware of the disorder, and its repercussions if left untreated.


The goverment offers veterans a wide array of counseling options, including ones that specialize in PTSD. For veterans on campus that are seeking help, the Center for Health and Counseling lists advice for students who have experienced trauma on their website, including contact information for counseling sessions.


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