Captain Sarah C. Humphries served in the U.S. Army in Iraq.
In a video on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) website, Sarah explains how she knew she had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). She describes an incident that occurred while walking with her son who was riding his bike: “We had just started walking down the street riding the bike and a lot of neighbors were out talking. It was the time of night where everyone comes out because it was so hot. He almost got hit by a car on his bike, and it was so close that the driver stopped and was crying and was in tears. My son was in tears, and my neighbors were screaming and my husband came running down the street, and I had no reaction at all.”
Captain Humphries explains how her reaction was different than the likely reaction of the Mom she was before her deployment and how others perceived her reaction, “That’s not me, and of course I care about my son . . . The emotional numbness, it’ll just tear away all of the relationships in your life, if you don’t learn to unlock them, get those emotions out.”
Veterans responding to questions about their personal experiences with PTSD and their treatment are among the resources available on the VA’s website. PTSD symptoms can start soon after the traumatic event, not happen until months or years after the trauma or come and go over many years. The Department of Veterans Affairs suggests keeping track of symptoms, talking with someone you trust about them and seeking professional help from a doctor or counselor. The VA provides four categories of symptoms:
- Reliving the event (Examples: nightmares, flashbacks);
- Avoiding situations that prompt reminders of the event (Examples: avoiding crowds, because they feel dangerous);
- Negative changes in beliefs and feelings, which include changes in the way a person thinks about themselves and others because of the trauma (Examples: not having positive feelings toward other people and staying away from relationships);
- Feeling keyed up (Examples: being jittery, always on the lookout for danger, sudden anger or irritability, having trouble sleeping and concentrating).
Resources are available in Idaho to assist with PTSD:
- All VA Medical Centers provide PTSD care. The 4 VA Medical Centers that serve Idahoans are Boise www.boise.va.gov, Spokane www.spokane.va.gov, Walla Wallawww.wallawalla.va.gov, and Salt Lake City www.saltlakecity.va.gov.
- Vet Centers in Boise, Pocatello, Spokane and Walla Walla help with the transition from military to civilian life.
- PTSD Coach mobile app is a free download for iPhone or Android devices to help veterans manage PTSD symptoms.
- Through the Veterans Crisis Line, veterans are able to receive confidential support 24/7, Chat online at www.VeteransCrisisLine.net, 1-800-273-8255 (Press 1), Text 838255.
- Veteran Combat Call Center is a 24/7 line to talk to another combat Veteran, 1-877-927-8387.
- U.S. Department of Defense Centers of Excellence provides information and helps locate resources, 866-966-1020, Live Chat: realwarriors.net/livechat, Email: resources@dcoeoutreach.
- National Center for PTSD www.ptsd.va.gov/.
- PTSD Consultation Program www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/consult/index.asp is for providers who treats veterans with PTSD.
These are just some of the resources available to assist with PTSD, and often the assistance is provided at no financial cost to veterans. A number of non-government organizations also offer PTSD assistance.
Greater awareness of PTSD can help ensure that more who suffer from PTSD get the help they need. I signed a pledge to “Help Raise PTSD Awareness,” and have supported bipartisan legislation promoting PTSD awareness. Raising awareness is essential to overcoming misinformation surrounding PTSD and to providing support for veterans, their families and others who have experienced trauma.