Honoring our veterans on November 11th every year is an American tradition. We want to let the dedicated men and women know that we appreciate the sacrifices they made for our country. But, we should show them our respect every day, not just once a year. Many of these individuals are struggling to cope with daily life after their time in active duty.
To help these individuals get the help they need we must all do our part in raising awareness about veterans and substance misuse. Foundations such as the Lone Survivor Foundation is a great way to offer your support. They provide information on how you can get involved by hosting an event, conducting a fund-raiser, attending sponsored events, and more.
Challenges Faced by Returning Veterans
Most people believe veterans are happy to be home with their families and out of danger. While this may be true, it’s not the whole story. Some veterans try to hide their anxiety and depression, so it often goes undetected. They suffer daily with a variety of issues such as PTSD, depression, suicidal thoughts, and drug or alcohol misuse.
Here are some facts that may surprise you:
Veterans and PTSD
For most people, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is triggered by traumatic life events. The events may include the following:
- Witnessing or being involved in a tragic accident or crime
- Natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, etc.
- Terrorist attacks such as 9/11
- Physical or sexual abuse or assault
- Emotional abuse
- Unexpected illness or injury
But, with military veterans, PTSD can include a combination of triggers that are a result of being on the battlefield. These triggers are a significant contributing factor in veterans and substance misuse. In fact, more than one in ten veterans are diagnosed with substance use disorders. This rate is higher than the rate of SUDs in civilian counterparts.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, about 15 percent of Vietnam veterans have PTSD in their lifetime. About 12 percent of Gulf War (Desert Storm) veterans struggle with PTSD. Keep in mind, these are only the reported cases. Many veterans suffer in silence and aren’t included in these figures.
Also, according to the National Veteran Suicide Prevention’s annual report, veteran suicide deaths reached 6,261in 2021. Suicide rates for veterans exceed the rate of suicides in the general population. On average, about 20 veterans die by suicide every day.
What Are the Symptoms of PTSD Among Veterans?
PTSD is recognized as a mental health disorder by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders published by the American Psychiatric Association. PTSD is not something a veteran will get over as time passes. The symptoms can be so severe that they also affect a person’s physical health.
These are some of the signs and symptoms experienced by veterans with PTSD:
- Recurring, distressing memories of the traumatic event
- Social withdrawal or isolation
- Sleep disturbances, nightmares
- Anger and irritability
- Distorted sense of blame
- Survivors guilt
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Reckless behavior
- Prolonged psychological distress when exposed to reminders
Experiencing PTSD symptoms can also cause reactions such as racing heartbeat, shaking, physical discomfort, and panic attacks. These issues can affect a veteran’s ability to hold a job or function in daily life. Many veterans have ended up losing their families and homes, leaving them to struggle as homeless individuals. The rate of veterans and substance misuse is directly related to PTSD.
Resources for Veterans and Their Families
Veterans who struggle with PTSD and substance misuse are not alone. They can reach out to many organizations that are dedicated to helping veterans and their families.
Veterans who feel unable to cope with their symptoms or are having feelings of self-harm should call 911. Or, they can call the National Center for PTSD to talk with a Veterans Crisis Line counselor. A responder will help veterans through their immediate crisis, even if it doesn’t include thoughts of suicide
In non-emergency situations, veterans can contact the Department of Veterans Affairs for information and advice about coping with PTSD.
Help for Veterans and Substance Misuse at Design for Change Recovery
When a veteran feels that they can no longer control their PTSD symptoms and substance misuse, we can help. At Design for Change Recovery, we provide a First Responder Wellness Program. The program was created to provide treatment for firefighters, police officers, EMTs, corrections officers, military personnel, and others.
We understand the unique challenges a veteran faces. So, our program provides a combination of modalities to treat PTSD and any co-occurring substance misuse disorders. The options include the following:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
- Family and Couple counseling
- Psychodrama Therapy
- Biosound Therapy
- Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM)
- Nutrition and Fitness Education
- Music and Art Therapy
These are only a few of the many therapy models we offer for veterans and substance misuse.
Contact Design for Change Recovery today to learn more about our evidence-based, customized treatment programs. We want to help you overcome PTSD and substance misuse problems and enjoy the life you fought to protect.