Waiting for an UBER this week, I overheard a conversation that went something like this:
Woman 1: “I don’t know why they’re making such a big deal of this. They came home alive, didn’t they?”
Woman 2: “Are you serious? Do you realize what a bitchy thing that is to say?”
Woman 1: “I’m just saying, these guys got to come home. Lots didn’t. I can’t believe they’re cancelling the swim meet. Couldn’t they have done this somewhere else?”
The conversation went on for a few minutes and it dawned on me that they were having a discussion about a celebration that was being held at a community’s clubhouse in honor of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans. Woman 1 was truly angry that her kid would be missing his chance to swim in some annual swim competition because the community has chosen to honor their residents that served overseas. WTF?!? No wonder so many of these men and women are suffering silently with the emotional AND physical scars these wars have left on them.
Following Vietnam, the soldiers coming home with PTSD symptoms ended up on the street, unable to function in normal day-to-day life. If they were lucky enough to have families that would support them, they were regarded as, “So-and-so. You know, he just isn’t quite right.” The forgotten veteran epidemic became apparent. People swore it would never happen again. But is has.
It’s estimated that at least 20% of returning Afghanistan and Iraqi war veterans suffer from some level of PTSD. Fifty percent of these men and women won’t seek treatment. Unfortunately, our society still maligns those with conditions that don’t have a physical manifestation.
Suicide and death from drug overdose are also much higher amongst veterans than the numbers coming from the general population. Many studies note major gaps in care, which may circle back around to prescription drugs being handed out in massive amounts, rather than arming these people with tools that can help them cope with the day-to-day struggles.
Some PTSD sufferers are finding canine companionship to be just the key. Others are benefitting from new therapy modalities that strip away the triggers or even reroute neural pathways. Others are finding help for their physical AND emotional pain through cannabis. Unfortunately, not enough of these men and women are being reached.
I sincerely hope that woman I overheard never experiences something so horrific in her life that she will be forever scarred. But for those that are, isn’t it time we really acknowledged the problem?