With PTSD Awareness Day behind us – celebrated in June of each year – it's important to remember that the disorder is present year round for many active-duty military, veterans and first responders. Let's take a deeper dive into what PTSD is and some valuable resources to help alleviate the symptoms.

What is PTSD?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), PTSD is "a disorder that develops in some people who have experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event." Symptoms can differ greatly from person to person and last for varying lengths of time. NIMH reports that someone can be diagnosed with the disorder if they exhibit all of these symptoms for at least one month:

  • At least one re-experiencing symptom.
  • At least one avoidance symptom.
  • At least two arousal and reactivity symptoms.
  • At least two cognition and mood symptoms.
The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.

How common is PTSD in Veterans?

While you may think that you do not know anyone who has been affected by PTSD, there is a chance that someone you know has been impacted by the disorder. In fact, 6% of the American population has been diagnosed with PTSD. According to the National Center for PTSD, about "12 million adults in the U.S. have PTSD during any given year."

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) reports that the number of those who have PTSD changes depending on the service era. Here are some of the most common examples:

Operations Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Enduring Freedom (OEF)

The OIF era began in October 2001 and the OEF era began on March 20, 2003, mainly in response to the terrorist attacks that happened on September 11, 2001. The National Library of Medicine reported that 1.9 million U.S. military members served as a part of the response operation. The VA Department also states that about 20% of those who served in these operations had been diagnosed with PTSD within a year.

Gulf War (Desert Storm)

Operation Desert Storm was the second phase of the Gulf War, according to the US Navy's data. Again, the VA department reports that 12% of those who participated in the full two-year duration of the Gulf War will be diagnosed with PTSD as a result.

Vietnam War

One of the most well-known and deadly conflicts, the Vietnam War resulted in a high number of diagnoses for its veterans. The VA Department estimates that "about 30 out of every 100 (or 30%) of Vietnam Veterans have had PTSD in their lifetime."

Do first responders get PTSD?

Similar to active duty military members and veterans, first responders are routinely exposed to traumatic situations that could result in PTSD, among other mental health concerns. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports that about 1 in 3 first responders are diagnosed with PTSD. This includes firefighters, EMTs, nurses and police officers. Due to their proximity to danger and death, the emotions and stress which they are exposed to often lead to the defined symptoms above and an active diagnosis of posttraumatic stress.

While there are many support services available within the career services sector of these professions, including mandatory therapies and time off, there are a high number of volunteer first responders who either don't quality for these services or who aren't required to attend. If you or a loved one is in a first responder profession, be sure to ask and be aware of the options available for leave of absence, time off, and therapeutic services, all of which can help catch early warning signs of the disorder and even lower the severity of symptoms. Check out the valuable resources below for more information.

Helpful resources

If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of PTSD, there are hotlines available that can help you discover your best course of action. The impacts of PTSD can be serious and should not be taken lightly. Seek professional assistance and help remove the stigma by having an open conversation with those involved. Here are some of the best resources:

SAMHSA: Call 1-800-662-HELP

Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255, press 1

PTSD Foundation of America: Support groups

CopLine: (Law Enforcement Only): 1-800-267-5463

AllClear Foundation (all First Responders): Text BADGE to 741741 (crisis text line)