National PTSD Awareness Day

June 27 marks Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness Day, a day meant to stimulate discussion and promote understanding for an affliction that affects 20% of our returning veterans.  And yet despite its prevalence among those who saw combat, it is often a misunderstood condition among the general public. Commonly stereotyped as being weak, unstable or prone to violence, many veterans suffering from PTSD must contend with stigma as well as trauma.   

It certainly doesn’t help that the condition is considered a “disorder.”  That name in itself brings shame and dishonor to its bearer, and quite frankly becomes a barrier that prevents some veterans from seeking help. 

The symptoms associated with PTSD are actually normal responses to a set of extraordinary circumstances – except your brain is unable to readjust once you are safely removed from the traumatic experience.  Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said:  “Recognize that normal responses to traumatic events include feeling scared, anxious, sad, or guilty.  Yet, if these feelings persist after a month, or get worse, or start to return – something may not be right…the Department of Defense remains determined to urgently address the unseen wounds of war.”

War, one way or another, changes everyone who wages it.  Some people come home and are able to integrate back into society without so much as a hiccup.  And yet others, for some unknown reason, return home to find their life turned completely upside down.  Many of these warriors, desperate for some relief from their emotional (and sometimes physical) agony, turn to drugs and alcohol to take the edge off.

But there is a way out-- a life free from the confines of substance abuse, and beyond the suffocating grip of PTSD.  Most importantly, there is hope, because on the horizon awaits a better life worth living.  Veterans Healing Initiative (VHI) stands ready to support all those who seek freedom from PTSD and addiction.  As Secretary Panetta said, “We believe the unseen wounds of war are every bit as pressing – and every bit as treatable – as the visible wounds that have left a permanent physical mark on thousands of our heroes.”

Let’s use this national day of awareness to do much more than just spread the word about PTSD.  Instead, let’s make it a call to action.  Support suffering veterans everywhere by donating to causes like VHI that directly help care for our nation’s combat veterans.  Let’s rally around our veterans and prove that our nation still supports them in garrison, just as we did when they were deployed into harm’s way.  Because far too often, when a veteran returns stateside, they embark on their toughest battle yet:  their spiritual and emotional journey home.  The least we can do is help them find their way.