A group that is beyond deserving of the United States’ aid consists of the men and women who fought valiantly for our country and freedom. However, even with a lack of viable employment opportunities and an increase of reported injury-or trauma-related mental illnesses, United States veterans very rarely receive the help they so desperately need.
To provide a better insight, the American Psychological Association (APA) conducted a study that revealed the disturbing effects veterans suffer upon returning home from war, including: record high suicide rates amongst 18- to 29-year-old male veterans; an unemployment rate that far exceeds the civilian unemployment rate; a sharp increase in female veterans suffering from military sexual trauma; and an increased stigma associated with seeking help for debilitating mental illnesses, such as depression, anxiety and the most common, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Due to these and many other contributing factors, such as inadequately trained mental health providers, it is estimated that only 40 percent of veterans who screen positive for serious emotional issues seek help; a statistic that clearly needs to change.
Seeing as these situations and statistics will only become grimmer over time, it is imperative that the U.S. government take a more proactive stance in regards to veteran affairs and promote — or even require — treatments that do genuinely improve the lives of traumatized veterans.
Recently, the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) updated their list of PTSD resources to accommodate two new and promising treatments — both of which were originally developed with victims of attack or abuse in mind. These methods are cognitive processing therapy (CPT) and prolonged exposure therapy (PE).
CPT, which is often held in groups, typically starts off with veterans writing an impact statement — or a testament to how their lives are still “held in the grip of war” — and sharing said statement with others. Although this exercise is often uncomfortable and occasionally painful, therapists use these responses to aid the group in working through their negative emotions and feelings of guilt. By enduring this process, veterans often experience more mental clarity in regards to their traumatic experiences, as well as a greater sense of detachment, in that their personal experiences no longer dictate their ability to progress in life.
PE, on the other hand, stops veterans from internalizing their fears and traumatic experiences by forcing them to repeatedly share these incidents out loud. This approach enables the veteran to more effectively control their thoughts and emotions regarding their trauma, thus giving them the opportunity to change the ways they react to these memories.
Both CPT and PE have proven to be instrumental in the recovery of PTSD-stricken veterans, especially for those who are married and/or have children, since they encourage open communication between veterans and their loved ones.
However, the only way these and other treatments can make a positive impact on veterans’ lives is if afflicted veterans actively seek help. If you — or someone you know — is suffering from PTSD, please visit the VA website to find ways to get proper assistance.