Every day five active duty troops attempt suicide. In 2008, suicide deaths began to surpass combat-related fatalities.
PTSD in the lives of returning combat troops can often manifest in several ways including nightmares and flashbacks, difficulty sleeping, and through a feeling of detachment. Those who suffer from PTSD often relive combat trauma in some way such as becoming upset when something triggers the memory of a combat-related event. They also regularly tend to always feel on guard, irritable, or startle easily.
To put this in perspective, according to the VA’s National Center for PTSD, from 1999-2010, the suicide rate in the US population among males was 19.4 per 100,000. Based on the most recent data available, in the fiscal year 2009, the suicide rate among male Veteran VA users was 38.3 per 100,000.
It is clear that some combat veterans are facing an entirely different war when they return home, but organizations like the PTSD Foundation of America, among others, are leading the fight to heal the unseen wounds of war.
The PTSD Foundation of America offers a program called Camp Hope that mentors military combat veterans dealing with PTSD. It is a six-month program that offers peer-to-peer mentorship from other veterans who have been through the program. Veterans attend classes on anger management, substance abuse, and basic life skills.
“When entering the program, veterans go through a 30-day blackout period with no internet, phone or family contact. During this time, they work to become mentally stable before starting to deal with other issues,” said Executive Director David Maulsby.
Maulsby said PTSD has been around for hundreds of years. In the past, the disorder has been referred to as battle fatigue, shell shock or the thousand-yard stare.
“PTSD is not a mental illness,” he said. “It’s a normal reaction to an abnormal situation.”
Many have gone through the program and have seen considerable changes. Randy Starry, a combat veteran who once attempted to take his own life due to PTSD said that Camp Hope has given him a new lease on life. “I’m trying to give back what was given to me,” he said. “I owe Camp Hope my life.”
If you’d like to find out more about PTSD and how you can get involved in helping veterans who struggle with it, please contact the PTSD Foundation of America.