How You Can Help Veterans
PTSD is increasingly common among service members, but many are reluctant to discuss it. "It's especially a problem with service members who are in the National Guard and Reserves—who are still in service, they're not veterans yet, they're still on active service—they don't want the military to know that they're struggling with issues," Bill says.
Here are some things to know about those suffering from PTSD:
- Veterans with PTSD may struggle to trust other people, especially those who haven't experienced what they've been through. But talking through the feelings and experiences is one helpful way to work through the pain. "It encourages them to address it now, while they can, so they can learn to live with their symptoms and not let their symptoms live with them," Bill says. "One thing we let everybody know is that PTSD doesn't go away; it doesn't disappear. The experience, the memories are not going to be erased. But you can learn to manage the symptoms."
- Understand that each veteran deals with stress and stressors and traumatic events differently, but everyone is affected somehow. "I don't believe you can go to a hostile environment and not come back with some issues, some memories that change you," Bill says. "Everybody who goes to war comes back a changed person."
- Let soldiers know that their symptoms are common. "The issues and the feelings that you're feeling are to be expected. They're natural, and we want you to know that it doesn't speak to what type of person you are," Bill says.
- Veterans with PTSD may feel shame. "They come back with guilt about some of the things they had to do or some of the things that they experienced," he says, "and they don't know how to let people know about it because they don't necessarily trust that what they have to talk about or how they're behaving is well received by others."
- PTSD happens after the event. "Sometimes the triggering event can be months after you've deployed," Bill says. "I know for myself, I came back and for the first month I was in a pink cloud. I was just so happy that I was safe and sound and back with my family and back in America. But then, life comes at you and frustrations can build, anger can build, guilt can build, feelings of loss can build, and that's when you have to address it."