For many, Memorial Day often marks the start of summer holidays, BBQs, and family gatherings. However, for others it may not be as joyous. Veterans and those experiencing posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are often triggered by the holiday because of its connotations. Flashbacks and reminders of any service trauma may ensue, causing a stressful time for the individual and his or her family. To better sympathise and understand the struggle of veterans this Memorial Day, here are some information about PTSD, including the symptoms and treatment options.
A brief history of Memorial Day
The last Monday in May might mean an extra day off work or school for some people. What they might forget is that Memorial Day is dedicated to remembering the fallen heroes of our country. It was first recognised by President Lydon Johnson and Congress in 1966 as a time to celebrate local veterans who had fought in the Civil War. By 1971, the day was declared a national holiday. Today, celebrations take place across the country to appreciate those who have fought and died in all American wars.
What PTSD means for veterans
Parades and celebrations take place each Memorial Day to remember the fallen and honor those who have come home safely from combat. While many veterans left the danger of war behind at the base, they still face threats upon discharge. Even when a soldier has reentered society, the psychological and physical effects of warfare could still be looming. One such threat is PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder.
Although military service might not be as brutal as what is shown in the movies, nearly any type of traumatic event could trigger PTSD. From abuse and harassment to combat brutality and foreign attacks, each situation has the potential to cause mental harm to a veteran.
The number of veterans diagnosed with PTSD continues to rise. Those with the illness are at times incapable of participating in daily activities, professional pursuits or relationship growth. This in turn can lead to isolation and unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as alcoholism or drug abuse, as a form of self-medication.
Suicide is the leading cause of death for military members – active and retired. Though there is a stronger awareness for mental health among soldiers, the stigma of a mental disorder presents a challenge for those who need help.
Helping the veteran in your life this Memorial Day
As is true for anyone struggling with their mental health, accusations and social isolation are ineffective ways to tackle the problem. If there is a veteran in your life who has returned from service, let them know that you’re available to support them or lead them to the proper resources.
Those who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event may be anxious about adjusting to regular life after it occurs. It can be difficult to fully comprehend the scope of the situation, but offering personal support can help a veteran navigate the complex journey of recovery. Some helpful techniques include:
- Listening thoroughly
- Providing compassionate social support
- Creating an atmosphere of safety
- Encouraging self-reflection
With many mental health issues, stability and encouragement can go a long way. Extending interpersonal support is a great way to start the conversation of seeking specialized PTSD treatment. There are a few existing programmes – such as the Wounded Warrior Project, Veterans Crisis Line, and the National Center for PTSD – that are dedicated to improving the lives of veterans.
Though many people might resolve their PTSD naturally over time, some symptoms may persist unless professionally treated. By offering support and recognition to a veteran suffering from PTSD, you can help your loved one make a healthy recovery and enjoy a peaceful Memorial Day.
Jeremy Silverstein is Vice President of Operations and Vehicle Dispatching at Veteran Car Donations. During the years he’s been with the organisation, he has become quite an expert in the industry and has handled tens of thousands of donated vehicles.