Thursday, June 20, 2013

Iraq and Afghanistan War Veterans Still Not Seeking Help for PTSD

Will Terry, an Air Force veteran who served in both Afghanistan and Iraq, lost almost everything because of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). After he came home, Terry couldn’t sit near a window or be near loud traffic. "Towards the end of my four-year downward spiral," he says, "my fiance' left with my son three months after he was born. I missed my son's first smile, first word, and first of many things in the first year of his life. When my ex returned months later, I went to pick up my son and he screamed and cried as if he didn't know me. It broke me even more."

Thankfully, Terry finally decided to get help in 2007. He now enjoys an active life that includes leadership roles and involvement in veterans’ activities. He recently graduated from college. “I want people to know that they don’t have to suffer from PTSD," says Terry. "There is treatment out there and they can live a better life once they access it. The problem is, not enough veterans seek help."

As I recently reported in The Daily Beast, approximately 30 percent of post-9/11 veterans like Terry have PTSD, whose symptoms include flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety, hypersensitivity, anger, sleeplessness and depression. But according to the RAND Corporation, more than two-thirds of these veterans never seek treatment. Fear of reliving the event(s), worry about appearing weak or vulnerable, and concern for jeopardizing their careers both in and out of the military are just some of the reasons service members hesitate to seek help.

While the stigma associated with PTSD is thankfully beginning to fade, it's not happening quickly enough. Awareness is the key. June is PTSD Awareness Month. In observance of this public health campaign, Military Pathways is offering service members, veterans and their families the opportunity to take a free, anonymous online self-assessment for PTSD or other related condition at

While the assessment does not provide a definitive diagnosis, it will provide information on how to seek help if someone is experiencing PTSD symptoms.

The self-assessment asks users to answer a set of four questions and provide some basic demographic information. After completing the assessment, respondents receive feedback as to whether their symptoms are consistent with symptoms of PTSD, as well as a list of resources for how and where to get further evaluation and help. Visitors to the site can also access a host of articles, videos and other helpful information.

As noted by Bergmann & Moore, a law firm that exclusively represents veterans with disability claims, PTSD didn’t become an official psychiatric diagnosis until 1980, but reports of battle-related stress reactions are as old war itself. There are a variety of pre-PTSD terms that all mean the same thing - everything from shell shock to battle fatigue to traumatic war neurosis.

The PTSD self-assessment tool offered by Military Pathway, which is provided by the nonprofit organization Screening for Mental Health, Inc. and funded by the Department of Defense with support from the National Center for Telehealth and Technology (, is quick and confidential. It can change and even literally save the life of a veteran. A self-assessment is the first step toward healing. PTSD is treatable, and beatable.


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