In Focus: PTSD Concerns for Air Force Members Returning from Iraq
PTSD stands for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. PTSD is a complicated condition an individual has to go through. Anybody who is exposed to any form of violence, life threatening experience and traumatic events are likely to acquire Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
People with PTSD can suffer from outbursts of anger, emotional numbness, sleeping disorder, depression, anxiety and sometimes survivor guilt. PTSD can be developed after being exposed to horrible circumstances of serious physical harm or traumatic experience (HHD, 2007).
An individual who is diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder can still go back to their normal lives, through rigid therapies and constant help from his environment and most specially, from their love ones. The family member with PTSD must know the things the PTSD patient is going through, so they may able to understand and be more patient with them. PTSD also affects the person’s ability to deal socially with others, creating more depressing situation like difficult parenting, marital issues that often leads to divorce. A patient being diagnosed with this kind of disorder needs more love, care and understanding, it will be very difficult for the person to survive the trauma with another kind of trauma.
PTSD in connection to military services
PTSD is a behavioral disorder that may happen due to a life endangering event like military encounter, terrorist attacks, disasters that happens naturally, fatal accidents, or even violent personal assaults (HHD, 2007).
Military service personnel may have PTSD due to traumatic events that happened during, before and after their mission (Military Veterans PTSD Reference Manual (1998).
Men diagnosed with PTSD are mostly caused by military combat, but there are other also other traumatic factors that can trigger the disorder like war, natural disaster, car or plane crash, terrorist attacks, rape, kidnapping, violent assault and sexual and physical abuse (Helpguide,2001-2007).
It is reported that soldiers has a higher rate of mental health concerns six months from returning to their base after the deployment to Iraq (Social Work Today 2008).
Relevance of PTSD to Air Forces at present
Based on an Austin American- Statesman report, last 2005, for every six military soldier, one will experience PTSD (Military Connection, 2006-2007). In line with this study, it is important to Air force members to be aware on the possibilities that they may undergo this kind of syndrome, so they will be able to help themselves and give a helping hand to their fellow comrade. A soldier who was assigned in Iraq claimed that he is having flashbacks of the event happened, being depressed, experiencing sleepless nights, which are the symptoms of PTSD (HHD, 2007).
Many stories are being told by veterans who have suffered from havoc and disaster during their service in Iraq are said to have PTSD without their knowledge. Their family members feel that their love ones have changed and be complete stranger. The lack of knowledge about PTSD to the veteran and their family creates misunderstanding and trauma most of the time, leaving the veteran homeless and alone (Social Work Today 2008).
According the study based on the article: Combat Stress the War within, 17% of those men serving in Iraq is most likely to have PTSD and only 11% are from Afghanistan. The alarming matter is they found out that less than 40% of the inflicted men seek for help (CNN.com).
Growing number of PTSD patients in the military community are being recorded which is very alarming and needs to be given attention. The veteran that is in the state of PTSD and accompanied with other issues, may feel hopeless and opt to see suicide as their key in getting away. Suicide is the second leading reason of death for Air force personnel (HHD, 2007).
As a solution, Dr. David Litts of Air Force Clinical Training Project and Executive Director of the Air Force’s acclaimed suicide prevention program, include a workshop called Assessing and Managing Suicide Risk: Core Competencies for Mental Health Professionals (AMSR) in their curriculum. This curriculum aims to focus on the capacity of mental health in improving their skills in assessing suicidal tendencies. Dr. Litts and his group are still studying on how meet the mental health needs of the military men (HHD, 2007).
Iraq is the a chaotic military destination, thus Air Force member or any member of the military community is assumed to have PTSD during or after the mission, they should be aware of the possibilities that they may acquire it and where to get help.
PTSD cases may differ from one person to another depending on the weight of the trauma. The symptoms may arise hours, days, months or years after the incident. The symptoms can materialize abruptly, gradually, or from time to time (Helpguide, 2001-2007).
In solving this problem, the symptoms should be identified first.
The symptoms for having PTSD are the following
- Having nightmares, flashing back the experience (HHD, 2007) they have during their stay in Iraq.
- Re-experiencing the symptoms (HHD, 2007). Having a mental reply of the tragic incident while they are in their mission in Iraq, with a strong emotional reaction. These happens when they recall something whether they are asleep or awake.
- Difficulty in sleeping (HHD, 2007).
- Wanting to feel alone and be away from social life. (HHD, 2007)
- Having the guilt feeling of surviving and feeling that they are always in danger; great anger; bitterness; irritable and being depressed all the times (HHD, 2007).
Once these symptoms are identified seek for an expert. Oral medication is not enough to get through with PTSD, it will lessen the worries and the pains but it will not help you go through the process of healing. Therapeutic counseling will help the member survive.
Encourage the patient to seek help because most of them are in denial and will refuses to seek counseling (Military Connection, 2006-2007).
The Air Force Department should give and inform the veteran’s community about their benefits and the necessary assistance they need after serving their nation. The Department should provide their members with experts in helping them survive PTSD. The Air Force should work hand and hand with their military community to help each other in fighting this problem.
The Air Force training should not only focus on their physical skills but mold their military people with all kinds of weapon to survive. Air Force Suicide Prevention Program Manager, Lt. Col. Steven Pflanz shared that the Air Force will gain more in administering further training on the mental health of their personnel (HHD, 2007).
Another solution is the interaction of the Veterans with the fresh batch or the upcoming veterans to be assigned in Iraq, in a classroom discussions or the like. Sharing the experience of the veteran with PTSD will help them release the tension instead of keeping it to themselves. The interaction between both parties will give them information that is helpful. While the veteran expresses his trauma, he tries to accept and face his fears which lead to his wellness. As the veteran shares his experiences, the listeners learn more, gathering true to life experienced data and information on how is it like to be out in the field will help them survive the chaos in Iraq.
According to Sgt. Danny Facto, a returnee from Iraq, it helped him survive PTSD by talking to a group of people where he can discuss his situation with people who will certainly understand his line of job and situation (CNN.com).
Information and awareness is the best cure for PTSD. Many individuals with PTSD is not aware that they are actually in this stage, while others who are aware does not know where to seek the proper help.
How to implement the solution
- In general, all air forced personnel returning to their based should be given psychological help and attention. It should be done as soon as they are back to the base. It should be assumed that all of them will have PTSD, whether they are on denial or not. Psychological treatments should be like a standard operating procedure after a mission and before retirement.
- The government should give sufficient funds to aide the Air Force and other military services with the counseling, therapy and other mental and behavioral support. Their family members should be educated with the condition on how to help their loved ones with PTSD. Family members must be more understanding to the veteran and must know how to deal with them, by not exposing them to any kind of problems, TV shows that may remind them of the horrible experience, exposure to sports like punching, crawling, shouting and the like, that agitates the veteran. Giving awareness to the members of the Air Force and to their families about Post Traumatic Syndrome Disorder, will aide them in preparing themselves physically, emotionally and mentally.
- Give the necessary support until they are well. Continuous monitoring from the experts from time to time to make sure they have fully recovered (HHD, 2007).
- Provide a facility to accommodate the veteran with their therapy and intense check-up. The facility should have a warm atmosphere, beds and good number of experts who can facilitate in counseling.
- Include PTSD in their subjects during the training that will provide enough knowledge to help them once they are in that kind of situation already (HHD, 2007). Being informed with this situation helps them to be more prepared in fighting their attacks especially during and after the mission. Provide a better curriculum for the air force personnel to be fully prepared mentally and emotionally for their mission. As part of their education, soldiers training for mission, in the mission and retired soldiers should be provided seminars for counseling or a class where the veteran and the new batch of soldiers can interact.
- Coordinate with the Legislative Branch to create a law that will protect the welfare of the military people.
How will the solution help in improving the workforce
Post Traumatic Syndrome Disorder (PTSD) is just one of the many issues of the Air Force. If the Department will be able to address this problem, veterans and their families will be truly be grateful knowing that they were not left forgotten after giving their own lives at risk for the sake of the country.
If the Air Force will make their veterans and members feel that they are valued and their heroic treatments will not just be felt during their burials, destabilization will be far from the minds of those who are in uniforms because a soldier who is being appreciated and valued will continue to be loyal and be grateful to his flag and country.
Knowing that they will be treated well during and after their service will provide more loyalty and respect to the government. Thus, more will be encouraged to join and to serve well, giving more recognition to the department. Some veterans dismay their family member or relatives in being part of the Air Force for there are no benefits in being a hero, and they are just putting their lives in danger. Once these solutions are implemented, knowing that they get honored, they will surely allow their loved ones to follow their footsteps in forming part of the Air Force Department.
Modifying the Air Force curriculum will create a more productive and efficient military personnel as a whole. Physical wellness is one of the major factors of being prepared to face the battlefield, but what is being neglected is to train them in gaining the most powerful weapon the military personnel may acquire to really survive the chaotic world that they have to face. They have to be trained on what to expect when they are already out there, if they are not psychologically and mentally prepared, they might not fully complete their mission. If the Air Force curriculum is revised in equipping the soldier not just physically but also mentally, spiritually and emotionally, the department will be able to target its mission for the betterment of the nation.
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Helpguide.org (2001-2007). Post traumatic syndrome disorder: Symptoms, types, and treatments.
Retrieved on January 22, 2008 from http://www.helpguide.org/mental/post_traumatic _stress_disorder_symptoms_treatment.htm
Social Work Today (2008). Trauma and the military family: Responses, resources, and
opportunities for growth. Retrieved on January 22, 2008 from
CNN.com. (2004). Combat stress: The war within. Retrieved on January 23, 2008 from