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PTSD | Help and Recovery is possible

  • PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), once known only as "shell shock," a vague condition affecting war veterans, PTSD is now recognized as an anxiety disorder brought on by a traumatic event. The causes of PTSD begin with a traumatic event such as an attack or assault, a serious accident, a natural disaster, a terrorist attack, combat, or the death of a loved one.  While there are effective treatments available, many people, especially veterans, do not seek or receive help for the condition.  (Military Pathways, March 2014)

  • Recovery is possible, but you have got to ask for help.  True courage is letting others see your invisible wounds when you are fighting a battle.  Therapy can help vets release self-torment.  Frank Lesnefsky, a retired Army staff sergeant, witnessed horrors in Iraq, hit his own bottom, and contemplated taking his own life.  After finding help through Headstrong he shares his struggle with the 20 million followers on the popular blog, saying "There is a way out...there is a way to get better...why not take it!" 

    "They are killing us over there (Iraq), and they are still killing us here.  Don't let it happen.  Don't give them that satisfaction, to let them know that," said one of Frank's friends. 

    Headstrong is a non-profit whose mission is helping any vet who needs it to deal with their hidden wounds of war.  No cost, no wait.  They provide veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan with free mental health care that works.  Headstrong creator Brandon Stanton said that struggling veterans seeing their peers describe similar hardship can help them recover.  "To sit there and watch somebody be vulnerable and possibly read their story and say, 'You know what?  I'm going thru that too.  But I'm not talking about it, and I need to."  (Veterans share their stories to help others fight PTSD, Jim Axelrod, CBS Evening News, September 7, 2016)

  • No Veteran Left Behind.  Continue Mission is a mission that is working, as it offers tremendous support Veterans. They focus on helping veterans break down what they are feeling when they return to civilian life.  They involve Veterans and their families in recreational and educational programs that promote health and wellness and positive life-changing experiences.  They raise mental health awareness and take an active in suicide prevention. 

    Veterans report that when they get together at home, they truly enjoy the camaraderie. They enjoy talking to someone who can relate to what they have been through and how they are feeling. It is helpful for veterans to get out of the house and enjoy activities together, which is a great help for depression for most Veterans.  It's being with someone who understands. When they come home from the war they feel like they don't fit anymore. It's hard to turn off the former adrenaline rush. They transition from having a purpose to feeling like their life has lost purpose. 

    "When you first come home this so difficult. I don't think civilians understand what it's like when you return home," said Army Medic Veteran Leslie Zimmerman.  Nothing is the same at home, and the Vets are not the same person they were when they left.  Your children have aged, and they sometimes don't remember their military parent.  Many veterans are suffering, feeling isolated, and have a great deal of anxiety.  That's when Vets begin to drink too much, and they want to return to the field.  Veterans returning home often experience depression and PTSD.   They developed close relationships during their tours, and lost many of their friends there; and when they return home, it is very difficult to hear of their friends taking their own lives. 

    Pathfinder One is a unique program for Vets. 
    It is not a weakness to get help.  Veterans can do much to help each other pull through their depression and mental issues, instead of Veterans taking their own lives.  If you lose someone overseas, your mission isn't over; and as a Veteran, their continued mission now is to continue on with life.

    One Veteran helping another Vet is healing to both Vets.  Continue Mission is an outreach program that encourages Veterans to get out and do things together.  It has made a big difference in the lives of many Vets. It gets them out of the house, involved, and back to life. The Mission is to help Veterans, so they can help other Veterans. They come to have purpose, rather than sitting and feeling sorry for themselves. They say, no Veteran left behind. Continue Mission takes calls 24/7.  Every Veteran matters, every single one.  Veterans are a unique family. This program is more than what Veterans are looking for.  It evolves into a true family, a big family, that brings a great deal of happiness to Vets.  They have served their country, and now as they are healing at home, they are serving each other. They enjoy sharing their lives and their stories with each other.  Instead of taking their lives, they gain a desire to continue their mission at home.  For more information, see http://www.continuemission.org/     (Source:  Continue Mission, Turning Point, BYU broadcasting, Jan 29, 2017)

  • PTSD in vets lingers for decades.  A new study estimates that 270,000 Vietnam veterans still suffer from PTSD today.  Veterans still struggle with PTSD 40 years after the war ended.  Some have continued to feel anxious and have outbursts of rage. 

    Psychiatrist Dr. Charles R. Marmar of NYU Langone Medical Center responds to why 90,000 of those vets still have depression and PTSD.  “The longer people struggle with PTSD, the more likely they are to be depressed, misuse alcohol, and have those symptoms disrupt their family life and their work life, which creates further stress.”  PTSD as a condition was not identified until 1980, 5 years after the end of the Vietnam War.    (Dr. Jon Lapook, CBS This Morning News, July 22, 2015)

  • Suicides by vets happen an average of 20 times a day.  (Veterans share their stories to help others fight PTSD, Jim Axelrod, CBS Evening News, September 7, 2016)

  • For every soldier we have lost in combat, 25-30 take their own lives.  (The Headstrong Project, http://getheadstrong.org/)

  • PTSD affects an estimated 2.2% of the population, or 7.7 million people.  55-70% of the population will experience a traumatic event in their lifetime.  (Military Pathways, March 2014)
What You Can Do

  • Help is available for PTSD.  Talk to a therapist about your post traumatic stress, to stop being haunted by it.  See the resources listed below. 

  • Suicide Prevention.  Veterans in crisis, or those concerned about them, can call the 24-hour suicide prevention hot line through the Dept. of Veterans Affairs and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration at (800) 273-8255.

  • Read stories from other vets with PTSD on the blog Humans of New York.  These vets are just as courageous as folks who do something physically daunting on the battlefield, because they are baring their wounds in order to help a broader community and save lives.  There is a way to get better.  Recovery is possible, but you have to ask for help.  When you are fighting a battle where the wounds are invisible, true courage is letting others see them.  (Headstrong's executive director, retired Marine Capt. Zack Iscol amd Brandon Stanton, Veterans share their stories to help others fight PTSD, Jim Axelrod, CBS Evening News, September 7, 2016)
Local Organizations
Additional Resources
American Addiction Centers
A guide for addicted veterans and their families, designed to help understand the basics of addiction and navigate the veterans’ and active military support systems.  A summary of available governmental, organizational and other resources for those searching for assistance. It includes 48 citations of the latest studies and 10 external resources for veterans seeking help.

Behavioral Health Center
Spokane Veteran's Affairs Medical Center
4815 N. Assembly St.
Spokane, WA
This facility, dedicated in August 2012, can help veterans with mental health, addiction and social-service needs.  It offers both group treatment and one-on-one counseling.  It provides a neuropsychology clinic for brain injuries, PTSD, or other cognitive deficits, as well as a nationally recognized program for homeless veterans. 

Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center
(formerly Veterans Affairs Medical Center
4815 N. Assembly Street
Spokane, WA   99205
(509) 434-7000
(outside Spokane)  (800)  325-7940

Vets Garage
1102 W. College
Spokane, WA
(509) 919-3176
The Garage provides a "safe place" to help all veterans transition to civilian life.