By Joseph Jacob
Due to the nature of war, combat soldiers are prone to the development of mental health conditions among which include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is characterized by “flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety, and uncontrollable thoughts following a disturbing event—which could either have been experienced or witnessed by the person” (“Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)”). When symptoms intensify or persists for months to years, and when it begins to interfere with one’s functioning, PTSD is likely the diagnosis (“Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)”). For a better understanding of the disorder the following link can certainly provide more information regarding the condition: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/post-traumatic-stress-disorder/basics/definition/con-20022540. Although it is a serious mental health issue, it certainly can be improved upon through therapy, medications, and counseling which can all be managed by seeking out health care professionals (i.e. a psychiatrist) (“Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)”).
While mental health concerns are common in soldiers, research indicates that only around fifty percent of said soldiers seek out help within one year (Kim et al.). According to a study, stigma as well as barriers to care are prominent reasons as to why these soldiers end up not pursuing treatment and help while facing a mental health condition (Kim et al.). Common stigmas that soldiers felt include being perceived as “dangerous/violent” or even “crazy” (Mittal et al.). Another stigma that demotivated these men and women from seek out help was the notion that combat veterans are at fault and are responsible for the development of PTSD (Mittal et al.). They preferred to remain silent in order to avoid being labeled as someone with a mental illness (Mittal et al.). Being labelled with any disease can bring associated stigmas with it, and this labeling can plant these incorrect stigmas into the minds of others. Remaining silent can, however, be dangerous, as PTSD can "affect quality of life, impairing psychosocial and occupational functioning and overall well-being,” and treatment is crucial for recovery (Schnurr et al.).
Stigma can also have a drastic impact on how soldiers view themselves and it can decrease their self-esteem (Kim et al.). Internalization of these incorrect stigmas only serve to further demoralize these individuals and prevent them from getting treatment. Aside from stigma, barriers to care (i.e. lack of time and a lack of method of transportation) was stated to also play in a role in preventing these individuals from receiving treatment (Kim et al.).
These incorrect stigmas and modes of thinking about PTSD, whether from the general public, military personnel, or even soldiers with PTSD, as is the case in self-stigma (in which they adopt common perceptions about their illness and allow it to define themselves), is certainly detrimental. None of the previously mentioned stigmas are true nor do they do troops any justice. They only serve to exacerbate the mental health condition of the individual and prevent recovery. Thus, it is crucial that stigma is recognized as being harmful never helpful, and discarding these notions from clouding our judgement is only a step forward.
Kim, P. Y., J. L. Thomas, J. E. Wilk, C. A. Castro, and C. W. Hoge. “Stigma, Barriers to Care, and Use of Mental Health Services Among Active Duty and National Guard Soldiers After Combat.” Psychiatric Services 61.6 (2010): 582-88. Web. 12 Apr. 2015.
Mittal, Dinesh, Karen L. Drummond, Dean Blevins, Geoffrey Curran, Patrick Corrigan, and Greer Sullivan. “Stigma Associated with PTSD: Perceptions of Treatment Seeking Combat Veterans.” Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal 36.2 (2013): 86-92. Web. 12 Apr. 2015.
“Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, 15 Apr. 2014. Web. 11 Apr. 2015.
Schnurr, Paula P., Carole A. Lunney, Michelle J. Bovin, and Brian P. Marx. “Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Quality of Life: Extension of Findings to Veterans of the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.” Clinical Psychology Review 29.8 (2009): 727-35. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.