Most people ignore the homeless veteran on the corner, drinking his booze, and babbling about a flashback. Some would give him a dollar and others would ignore his “crazy ramblings.” His surroundings are peaceful and the world seems to continue despite his panic. Inside his mind however, the war has not ended. He is most likely suffering from PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder).
Afghanistan and Iraq are deemed the “New Vietnam,” according to an article in Inquistr.com. Like Vietnam, a high rate of service members returning from Afghanistan and Iraq gradually display ill mental health effects due to combat.
A report from Rand.org states that “nearly 20 percent of military service members who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan — 300,000 in all — report symptoms of post- traumatic stress disorder or major depression, yet only slightly more than half have sought treatment.”
With Afghanistan and Iraq becoming the longest running wars since Vietnam, the parallels and problems of both campaigns become vastly similar in the aftermath it has on veterans. The stresses of being away from home combined with combat stressors can certainly lead to problems later on for discharged Generation Y soldiers.
The Department of Veterans Affairs states that “10-18% of OEF/OIF troops are likely to have PTSD after they return.” PTSD varies in individuals but an increase in anxiety and emotional response such as hyper-vigilance, irritability; outbursts of anger, difficulty, and jumpiness have been reported.
Post-Traumatic Stress manifests in different ways, but according to Helpguide.org, they are narrowed down to three primary levels:
- Re-experiencing the traumatic event
- Avoiding reminders of the trauma
- Increased anxiety and emotional arousal
Without proper help, Iraqi and Afghan veterans become predisposed to other problems such as compulsive gambling, substance abuse, depression, memory, and cognitive distortions.
Another pressing issue is the high suicide rate among veterans. IAVA.org (Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America) released a report in January stating that over 278 soldiers committed suicide in 2011 alone. That is still less than 2010’s suicides that added up 468.
The IAVA estimated that about 6,000 registered veterans committed suicide in 2009 and that 950 veterans receiving some sort of supplementary income attempt suicide each month. With increasing suicide attempts and successes overwhelming both active and discharged soldiers, there has been recommendation for a “Suicide Prevention Policy Division” by Pentagon task forces.
The “Suicide Prevention Policy Division” would recognize and implement the needs of service members. Since the recent Afghan and Iraqi wars have produced more incidences of mental health injuries amongst returning Gen Y soldiers, the need for veteran focused programs is greater than ever.
IAVA attests that suicide itself is not the whole issue. Veterans who do not have the proper aide to reintegrate into civilian life tend to function worse than those who do have support. The recent reports of the paltry mental health care offered by the IAVA leave many veterans frustrated and unable to receive the benefits or help that they need. The IAVA has recommended that Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense combine and execute a rigorous outreach campaign that would focus on needs such as directing discharged service members to where they need to go. IAVA has taken the initiative in collaborating with the Ad Council so that a message of hope could be dispersed to vets. The campaign’s primary focus is reducing the stigma of seeking mental health.