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The Importance of Veteran’s Mental Health - Manaskriti

Hundreds of thousands of war veterans suffer from PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder, a disorder that develops when a person has experienced or witnessed scary, shocking, terrifying, or dangerous events that are stressful and traumatic. Many of the nation's heroes have served on the front lines and have seen their brothers in arms lose their lives fighting for their country. They’ve witnessed, first-hand, innocent lives being lost, not once, but hundreds of times over, and have continued to fight with a single-minded dedication. By teaching our future generation about the sacrifice they’ve made, not only of their personal lives, and of the lives of their brethren, but also of their emotional and mental well-being, we build awareness for the work the nation’s protectors do. We grow and nurture compassion for these warriors who have risked their lives for us.

Accounts of psychological symptoms following military trauma go back to ancient times. Before U. S. military efforts, an Austrian physician named Josef Leopold (1761) described “nostalgia” among soldiers, saying that those who had been exposed to military trauma reported missing home, feeling sad, having sleep problems, and anxiety. However, the American Civil War (1861-1865) and the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871) marked the first of formal medical attempts that addressed the problems that military veterans faced when exposed to combat. They described PTSD-like symptoms and created a model of psychological injury that existed into the Civil War. The second model of this condition insinuated a physical injury as the cause of the symptoms and was called “soldier’s heart” or “irritable heart” which was marked by a rapid pulse, anxiety, and trouble breathing. Many medical professionals believed that it was related to underlying neurological causes, but no one pinpointed the specific cause.

During World War I, soldiers were often given medication to treat their symptoms, and the underlying cause wasn’t ever treated. At that time, symptoms of modern-day PTSD were known as “shell shock” because it was seen as a reaction to the explosives in artillery shells. Later, this diagnosis was replaced by Combat Stress Reaction. An account of CSR can be found in Stephen Crane’s Red Badge of Courage which describes the reaction of a new Union Army recruit when faced with the first barrage of Confederate Artillery. This new “version” of PTSD symptoms was treated using the “PIE” method (Proximity, Immediacy, and Expectancy). PIE required treating casualties without delay and making sure sufferers expected complete recovery so they could combat after rest.

In 1952, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) produced the first Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-I) which talked about people with symptoms from traumatic events such as disaster and combat. The DSM-II included “adjustment reaction to adult life” which was insufficient to capture a PTSD-like condition. By DSM-5 (2013) the criteria of PTSD were heavily revised and showed that 4% of every American man and 10% of every American woman would’ve been diagnosed with PTSD in their lifetime. Nowadays, PTSD is no longer identified as an Anxiety Disorder but also as a Trauma- and Stressor-Related Disorder.

With the history of PTSD mainly focusing on research based on veterans, the trauma and suffering they go through is visible, and yet they continue to focus on serving our nation to keep us safe. Educating ourselves about their work and effort extends far beyond just our knowledge, but also translates into our compassion towards them. It translates into our actions when we meet a veteran and our subconscious actively works to keep them in our thoughts all of the time.

Although soldiers are known to be tougher than the average person, both physically and mentally, they remain human and are just as susceptible to human issues as the next person. Educating ourselves and generations coming of this, reminding them that we’re all working towards the same goal, and reminding them that soldiers who have served our country are now living with these traumatic memories and ideas helps us develop compassion and empathy towards our heroes and allows us to work to help them to our full extent.


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