My grandfather has often told me he is not sorry about his service in World War II, but he didn’t like how he ended up. For over 65 years he has lived with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) Society has long acknowledged that soldiers returning home often suffer from mental disorders such as PTSD.
However, developments in treatment for that disorder seem to have taken the back seat as of late. Recently, a big step in the right direction has been taken not by the government or medical professionals, but by students and educators.
According to an article in the Oct. 5 edition of USA Today, more universities are creating courses on how to treat combat veterans suffering from PTSD and other mental health problems like adjustment and anxiety disorders. Programs range from semester-long graduate courses on military culture, like the one at the University of Washington-Tacoma, to the University of Southern California’s master’s program in which students interact with holographic images of troops in distress. These developments are largely driven by students who feel the desire to help service men and women, because many of them are their peers.
Programs such as these should be offered at universities throughout the nation, including smaller universities like NMU. Here at Northern, we take much pride in our ROTC program and Military Science department. To further support student’s choices of being involved with the armed forces, we should create specific courses that teach any graduates who may work with veterans how to deal with PTSD and similar disorders. But it shouldn’t all rest in the hands of educators; the current professionals need to do their part too.
A study done by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) stated that 106,726 veterans of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have been diagnosed with mental health disorders after leaving the service. PTSD is a unique mental disorder because it is the result of what one has seen and experienced. This disorder often leads to other problems in life, like substance abuse, domestic violence and homelessness. According to the National Survey of Homeless Assistance Providers and Clients, veterans account for 23 percent of all homeless people in America.
The RAND Corporation, a nonprofit think-tank, stated that the VA’s mental health system is weak. This is mostly because specialized treatment for PTSD is offered sparingly, and professionals concentrated in the area are few and far between. To improve this system and hire more specialists would be costly, but the improvements would pay for themselves, given the costs of problems associated with PTSD.
Veterans like my grandfather had to live in silent anguish for a majority of their lives because we lacked the proper knowledge to treat their disorder. Now that we have that knowledge, we need to use it. Brave young men and women our age are going to keep volunteering to fight for their country. In addition to the work being done by students and educators, the government, specifically the VA, should also be fighting, for more accessible treatment that will let veterans carry on with their lives.