Despite the prevalence of psychiatric illness in America, many cases go ignored and undiagnosed. This is also true for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Stigma and unhealthy attitudes toward seeking treatment for mental health affect this population at least as much as any other. This is the focus of PTSD Awareness Day on June 27.

PTSD is a serious issue for many returning from active duty, yet studies can only estimate its prevalence.

Thankfully, more help is available for veterans now than ever before. The Red Cross, in particular, offers a range of workshops specifically designed to help veterans cope and process experiences with PTSD.

Here, we’ll discuss what the statistics say before detailing a couple of PTSD-focused resources veterans can use.

"The appearance of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement."“The appearance of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.”

The difficulties of measuring PTSD in veterans

Measuring PTSD rates is challenging in that it’s not as simple as a blood test. The illness can be difficult to detect and relies heavily on self-reported symptoms. Because those with PTSD have an increased risk of mortality, and the illness can’t be diagnosed post-mortem, the true numbers may be significantly higher than what the surveys report.

Due to the stigma surrounding mental health, those with PTSD symptoms are also less likely to seek help. While stigma has become somewhat lessened in modern culture compared to decades ago, many with psychiatric symptoms still do not seek help. This can also hinder attempts to gather accurate statistics.

What the statistics say

In general, veterans have a higher rate of PTSD than civilians, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. However, the most vulnerable populations are those who experience combat and women veterans. The latter are more than twice as likely to develop PTSD than their male counterparts, in part because of the increased risk of military sexual trauma (MST) compared to men, per a report by the Pentagon.

The Red Cross’ PTSD-centered workshops

Many organizations and mental health advocacy groups recognize that PTSD is a serious problem in our veteran population. Groups such as the Red Cross offer several programs for veterans with PTSD and their families, such as its Resiliency and Reconnection workshops and Mind-Body programs.

What is a Resiliency and Reconnection workshop?

This type of aid aims to make it easier for veterans to return to civilian life while experiencing symptoms of PTSD. The workshop includes helping the veteran restore their connections to family, friends and community.

There are several methods the program can use to help achieve this, including aiding someone:

  • Cope with stress.
  • Process trauma.
  • Encourage open communication.
  • Connect with children.
  • Craft healthy responses to intense emotions such as anger.

With skills like these and a space for guided communication between the veteran and their family led by a licensed mental health worker, the Resiliency and Reconnection workshop can produce dramatic results. Those coping with PTSD and their loved ones might find great solace in this workshop.

What is the Mind-Body program?

The Mind-Body program includes a range of concepts focused on encouraging a connection between these two core components of the self. If you’re familiar with the term “mindfulness,” this may sound similar — though the Mind-Body program is larger in scope, including physical exercise, artistic expression and journaling in addition to meditation-based therapy.

More help is available now than ever before

Ignoring symptoms of PTSD or self-medicating to cope with them can be detrimental to your health. Thankfully, you don’t have to deal with it on your own, and there are resources available for this common mental illness.

You can register for the Resiliency and Reconnection workshop, the Mind-Body workshop and other programs here.