Take a Timeout for Veterans

As you are celebrating the 4th of July this year, enjoying time with friends and family, watching fireworks, and having barbeques, it is also an opportunity to thank those who have served our country in the military. From the Revolutionary War to those currently serving overseas, let’s not forget the sacrifices these men and women have made for our nation.

We at Lion Heart want to say thank you to all of the men and women who have or who are currently serving in branches of the Armed Services.

How to support veterans

Say “Thank You”

There are many different ways you can say thank you. One way that will put your money where your mouth is (see what I did there) is to donate to an organization that helps support veterans and their families. Some suggestions are:

The Wounded Warrior project

The American Legion

United Service Organization

Volunteer

Whether you are looking for short or long term volunteer opportunities, there are many different ways you can serve the veterans in your community.

  1. Deliver a meal or care packages to veterans.
  2. Offer to write their story. The Veterans History Project of American Folklife Center collects and makes accessible the personal stories from U.S veterans. They are collecting stories from World War I through the Afghan War. You can download the kit here.
  3. You can provide transportation through the DAV foundation. You can sign up to drive men and women who are unable to travel to VA medical facilities on their own.
  4. Search different opportunities (financial, legal, or career expertise) based on skills you have at MilServe.  
  5. Donate or volunteer at the Canine Companions for Independence. This organization provides therapy or service dogs for veterans.

Support on the Home Front

Military family members sacrifice every day to support their family members in the armed forces, and sometimes the going gets rough. As a community member, you can reach out and help. Offer to carpool children to school, mowing their lawn, or simply be someone they can call when they it.

Learn more about PTSD.

In a society that stigmatizes mental illness, be bold and talk about it. In the United States, one in five adults experiences mental illness in a given year. Nearly one in four active duty members show signs of a mental health condition (NAMI, n.d.). Mental illness can become a serious health issue but with proper treatment individuals with mental health issues can live happy and productive lives.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder has been thrown around in the news recently, however do you really know what it is? PTSD is a disorder that develops in some people who have experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, n.d.). While it is natural to feel afraid during and after trauma if they continue to have stress or feel frightened when they are safe. When someone is afraid your body turns into “flight or fight” mode. This is your body’s defense mechanism preparing you to defend yourself or get the hell out of there.

PTSD is not a sign of weakness. There are factors that put you more at risk to develop PTSD, but many are not anything you can control for. One risk factor is if you are directly exposed to a trauma or injured. But not every traumatized person develops PTSD, just like not every person with PTSD has gone through a traumatic event. Symptoms begin early and last more than a month. To be diagnosed with PTSD (as an adult) you must have all of the following for at least one month:

  • At least one re-experiencing symptom
  • At least one avoidance symptom
  • At least two arousal and reactivity symptoms
  • At least two cognition and mood symptoms

What are re-experiencing symptoms?

Re-experiencing symptoms include bad dreams, frightening thoughts, and flashbacks. It is like rewinding and reliving the trauma over and over again. These thoughts are accompanied with physical symptoms like a racing heart or sweating. These symptoms can cause problems in a person’s daily life, and reminders of the event can trigger these re-experiencing symptoms.

What are avoidance symptoms?

When a person avoids driving down a certain street, going to events, or using objects that remind them of the traumatic experience. Also, avoiding thoughts or feelings related to the traumatic event. This causes a person to change their personal routine to avoid a triggering event.

What are arousal and reactivity symptoms?

Unlike the two above arousal symptoms are constant. They include being easily startled, feeling tense, having difficulty sleeping and angry outbursts.

What are cognition and mood symptoms?

These symptoms make them feel alienated or detached from friends or family. They include having negative thoughts about themselves or the world, feelings of guilt or blame, trouble remembering the key features of the traumatic event, or loss of interest in things they once found enjoyable.

Risk Factors for PTSD

  • Armed service men and women are 15 times more likely to develop PTSD than civilians
  • Living through a dangerous event
  • Getting hurt
  • Seeing a dead body, or another person get hurt
  • Childhood trauma
  • Having little social support after the event
  • Dealing with extra stress after the event, such as a loss of a loved one, pain and injury, or loss of a job or home
  • Having a history of mental illness or substance abuse (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder).

Treatments

The best part of learning about mental illness is learning that there is hope.  For some people, treatment can get rid of PTSD altogether. For others, it can lessen symptoms and make it so you can you can live your life uninterrupted. There are different types of treatment that can range from medication to talk therapy or a combination of both. Treatment will depend on your needs and you can talk more to your doctor or therapist about your specific treatment options (Understanding PTSD and PTSD Treatments, n.d.).

If you are looking for treatment you can talk to your doctor about finding a therapist or you can visit https://findtreatment.samhsa.gov/ to search for providers in your area.  

If you are a having thoughts of suicide the veterans crisis line is available 24/7 by dialing 1-800-273-8255

Help us break the stigma surrounding mental health problems and be a part of the solutions. Contrary to popular belief individuals with mental health problems can live successful and full lives. Learn more about mental illness and break the stigma surrounding them.

As you enjoy the parades, fireworks, and friends and family the 4th of July, don’t forget to think of those who made that sacrifice for us!

References

NAMI. (n.d.). Retrieved July 03, 2017, from https://www.nami.org/Find-Support/Veterans-and-Active-Duty

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. (n.d.). Retrieved July 03, 2017, from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/index.shtml

United States, National Center for PTSD, Veterans Affairs. (n.d.). Understanding PTSD and PTSD Treatment (pp. 1-16).

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