PTSD – The Military’s Greatest Failure By Gary Hays
It’s been 2 years since my son lost his battle with PTSD. He was not unlike the other 21 Veterans who took their lives that same day. The national statistic is 22 Veterans per day, and this figure has not decreased over time. Despite social media groups such as Veterans with PTSD, and Stop Soldier Suicide, working diligently to curb these numbers, until such time as legislative action is taken requiring additional programs and screening for military members just prior to discharge, their efforts are helpful, but will remain in vain. I was informed by my son, and his Army buddies whom I have come to know, they were merely asked to check some boxes on a sheet of paper indicating if they felt they were mentally sound. A simple check mark, and viola, they were on their way back to the world from whence they came, no further questions nor evaluations necessary. Thank you for your service.
Annually, there are 8,030 Veterans who did not reach out for help. These are the same ones who told the military they were okay, just prior to their being discharged. You must realize, Veterans with PTSD suffer from emotional trauma, sometimes rendering it difficult to reason in a clear and concise manner. Irrationality often becomes their norm, especially in severe cases leading to suicide. It is common practice for them to mask their illness for fear of being considered anything less than a proud veteran, having bravely, and without question fulfilled their obligation to God and country. They fear they will be looked poorly upon because of their, known only to them, illness, so as long as the loose thread stays partially wound, they clutch tightly until it one day snaps, and they can no longer live with the nightmarish memories of war. I reiterate: 22 per day.
Despite ongoing efforts at creating awareness, PTSD-related suicides will continue at their current rate, which has never wavered, until such time as the military services become pro-active in determining a member’s well-being, prior to stamping “veteran” on their forehead. Sure, the V.A. offers programs, but it once again comes down to an emotionally injured Veteran taking the initiative to reach out, and once they are discharged from the military, the chances of them ever doing so are dramatically decreased.
As time marches forward, and we continue needlessly losing more of our friends and family members to the evil sting of PTSD, the only answer lies in early detection, and this can only be accomplished via a thorough medical evaluation, while still in uniform. This will by no means eliminate veteran suicides, but if it reduces the number by even one, shouldn’t it be done? Speaking as a father who has suffered a grave loss, my son may have been that one.