An Associated Press report states that when the Army did its first mental health study of troops who served in Iraq, it discovered that one in eight returning soldiers had symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. Less than half of that number would seek help, the Associated Press states. And a later report from the Department of Veterans Affairs states that in the last decade, PTSD cases among service members has tripled.
The National Institutes Of Health has identified the growing number of PTSD cases in America as “an epidemic.” Also a major concern – dealing with caregiver burnout, fatigue, and stress associated with helping a loved one manage their condition. Not seeking care is one of the worst things a PTSD sufferer can do, but many service members and their families aren’t sure where to begin looking for help.
For Those Who Need Immediate Help
Anyone suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and is struggling with feelings of self-harm or suicide should seek help immediately. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255) (live online chat is available via the official site) is staffed 24/7 to help those who need help in a crisis.
Military Families Have Resources On Base
One of the closest sources of initial help for a military loved one suffering from the symptoms of PTSD is a base counselor, mental health clinic, or military hospital that provides counseling and mental health services.
While not all military bases have full-service hospitals or inpatient facilities, there is usually some form of mental health treatment available including counseling services, therapists, and in some cases a psychiatrist, or the ability to be referred to one, from the primary care provider.
Some military members are reluctant to use the “official” treatment channels offered on base out of fear of stigma, hurting a career, etc. Ideally the service member should be most concerned with getting help, but it may be a good idea to explore treatment options covered by TRICARE in the local area rather than using a military clinic if there are concerns about getting help through the military medical system.
Department Of Veterans Affairs Resources
The VA official PTSD site has a number of sections with advice, resources, and explanations of PTSD, its symptoms, and its treatment. This site is not just for those suffering from PTSD and their loved ones, it’s also a resource for medical professionals and mental healthcare providers. You can explore a wide range of materials, videos, advice, and definitions at PTSD.va.gov. The VA site offers articles and information for everyone involved in the process from loved ones to caregivers.
Non-Military PTSD Resources
There are several agencies dedicated to helping families and patients dealing with the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder but are not affiliated with the military. When you do a Google search for online resources related to these organizations, be sure to use combinations of search phrases including “veteran,” “PTSD,” and “Local chapter,” or the name of your city or state.
The National Alliance On Mental Illness (NAMI)
This organization does not focus on one specific type of condition but does emphasize PTSD. NAMI has state chapters and local affiliates-the affiliates number well over 900 alone. There are local support groups, events, and classes offered to patients and family members alike.
The publication Psychology Today has an official site that features a search tool to help people find PTSD group therapy and support in the user’s local area.
Veteran Service Organizations (VSO)
If you need to be put in touch with a local support group, get assistance filing a claim with the Department of Veterans Affairs related to your PTSD experience, or learn more about your options making VA claims or getting VA treatment, a Veteran Service Organization can help. You can find a local chapter of the DAV, VFW, or other veteran-affiliated agencies near you.
Private Veteran-Focused Support Groups
There are many veteran-focused and veteran-run support groups for PTSD, traumatic brain injury, and other conditions. The Wounded Warrior Project is a good example, as is This Able Veteran, which is a private, non-profit organization that provides trained service dogs to veterans suffering from PTSD. Which leads to our next category…
Service Animal Agencies
There are many online resources for those who may need a service animal or comfort animal to help better manage symptoms of PTSD. The agency Service Dogs Of America features a PTSD section on its official site, a good example of a national agency. But many service animal organizations operate on the local level instead, such as PAALS, the Palmetto Animal Assisted Life Services agency located in Columbia, South Carolina. Be sure to search for both national and local resources for service animals since you may be required to do in-home interviews, training, etc. to be paired with a service animal.
State-Run Departments Of Veterans Affairs
Your state’s Department of Veterans Affairs or similar state agency will have lists of local resources that can help veterans and families. Some of the resources are state-provided, others may be partnerships between state agencies and local chapters of a VSO. You may find that some states have more extensive resources and help available for vets and families, others may refer patients to the VA system if resources are not as plentiful.
University Mental Health Studies, Focus Groups, And Clinical Trials
Those living in an area served by a research university such as the University of Illinois At Chicago should explore options offered by the university’s medical department where available. You may find there are a range of options including clinical trials and treatments that are in the research phase.
Not everyone will be interested in volunteering for research, focus groups, or experimental treatment options, but many are. Check out your nearest medical department at a college, university, or private campus. One excellent example of the options that involve these organizations is at Columbia University; their Department of Psychiatry advertises the following on its official site:
“We are proud to offer US service members and their family members mental health treatment free of charge. This program is generously funded by a grant from the New York Presbyterian Hospital (NYP) and by a grant from the Bob Woodruff Foundation”.
This is just one example of the help veterans with PTSD may find in the local area via college-sponsored or college administered programs.
PTSD Apps For Veterans And Families
The Department of Veterans Affairs official site has a page of mobile apps that are designed to help with PTSD (linked to in the sidebar of the main PTSD resources page). They include:
- PTSD Coach – This app is designed to help users learn about coping with the symptoms related to PTSD that commonly occur following trauma.
- PTSD Family Coach – PTSD Family Coach is designed to support family members of those living with post-traumatic stress disorder.
- Mindfulness Coach – This app helps users manage PTSD symptoms by “grounding yourself in the present moment.”
- VetChange – An app to help those worried about alcohol use as it relates to PTSD.
- Anger and Irritability Management Skills – A mobile app to help you cope with anger problems. Built for military members, it can be used by anyone who needs to learn more about anger and how to manage angry reactions.
PTSD Caregiver Help
The Department of Veterans Affairs has special programs and support for the caregivers and family members of veterans suffering from PTSD and other medical issues.
The Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA)
Current spouses and surviving spouses and children of veterans with disabilities who do not qualify for TRICARE may qualify for health insurance through CHAMPVA, which is a cost-sharing program. In the context of our discussion about PTSD, CHAMPVA helps to cover mental health services as well as other medical services-those in need of counseling as a result of caring for a loved one will find this assistance to be quite valuable.
The Program of Comprehensive Assistance to Family Caregivers of Post-9/11 Veterans
Family members taking care of a veteran with VA rated disabilities who were hurt in the line of duty on or after September 11, 2001 may qualify for benefits under the VA Program of Comprehensive Assistance to Family Caregivers. Qualifying criteria includes the following:
- The veteran has a serious injury which may include traumatic brain injury, psychological trauma, or other mental disorders caused or aggravated by active-duty military service on or after September 11, 2001, and
- Requires personal care services because they can’t perform one or more activities of daily living and/or:
- Requires supervision or protection based on symptoms of lasting neurological damage or injury.
These are just two of the programs available to caregivers via the Department of Veterans Affairs. Contact the VA directly to learn what other options may be open to you.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Help En Espanol
The Department of Veterans Affairs also offers a page for those who need to learn more about PTSD using Spanish-language resources.
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News
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