Target: Defense Department and the Department of Veterans Affairs
Goal: Reconfigure and expand mental health resources available to service members suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
For soldiers returning from combat, the horrors of war don’t always stay behind on the battlefield. Post-traumatic stress disorder (P.T.S.D.)–an anxiety disorder caused by traumatic experiences–can haunt veterans long after they’ve completed their service in the military. This severe mental health condition can interfere with the lives of service members for years, with symptoms ranging from violent, distressing flashbacks, extreme difficulty sleeping, and general irritability. It’s currently estimated that one in five of the 2.6 million service members who have deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan since 2001 are afflicted with symptoms of P.T.S.D.–and the infrastructure in place to help soldiers cope with mental health concerns does not sufficiently address the problem.
Because symptoms of P.T.S.D. might not present themselves until months or even years after their triggering events, many soldiers go untreated for the disorder after their initial screening comes up clean. Even after they have been successfully diagnosed with the disorder, many veterans and their families struggle to find adequate mental health care. There are fewer mental health professionals qualified to treat the disorder in rural areas or remote towns, and soldiers who present with symptoms in combat zones often have to wait until they’ve been moved to a more developed area before receiving diagnosis and treatment.
While both the Defense Department and the Department of Veterans Affairs are well aware of the mental health crisis plaguing our country’s soldiers, the resources each department provides cannot currently reach each service member who suffers from P.T.S.D. A new report from experts at the Institute of Medicine has concluded that each department needs to thoroughly analyze the effectiveness of programs in place and work to expand effective treatments and support.
It’s time our soldiers had the resources they need to recover from the psychological trauma of war. Tell the Defense Department and the Department of Veterans Affairs to expand treatment programs across the country and in combat zones.
Dear Defense Department and the Department of Veterans Affairs,
In the past decade, it has become increasingly evident that post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health conditions have affected the lives of military service members long after they return home from combat. Despite one in five service members receiving a P.T.S.D. diagnosis, resources available for soldiers in crisis remain erratic. Many service members do not have access to mental health professionals while in combat zones, and many more find difficulty in obtaining care once they return home.
The efforts your departments continue to make have helped thousands of service members with mental health conditions, but more infrastructure is still needed to ensure that severe mood disorders do not prevent veterans from leading happy lives once they are able to return home. New strategies, such as telemedicine and virtual reality therapy, could aid soldiers in remote areas, while alternative health treatments could aid many service members for whom traditional therapies have not worked. I ask that you evaluate the mental health services currently in place, determine their effectiveness, and expand effective treatments to reach more soldiers in crisis.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Postdlf via Wikimedia Commons.