Veterans who have post-traumatic stress disorder are often at greater risk of experiencing economic, social and health issues than those who do not. This leads to a range of problems within the community, especially given the gains needed in awareness regarding how to support and help these individuals. In many instances, the most challenging aspect of combating PTSD's negative impacts on veterans is knowing they need assistance.
The PTSD Foundation of America estimated that more than 60 percent of veterans diagnosed with serious symptoms from the disorder do not try to find assistance at any point in time, and that about 33 percent of those returning today have indeed been diagnosed. Again, awareness is critical, and needs to be present from the top to the bottom, meaning those involved in government and law should also understand the challenges of living with PTSD.
Judge's show of solidarity
The ABA Journal recently reported that a judge in North Carolina decided to stay overnight in jail with a veteran to show him support and care for him, knowing that the individual suffered from PTSD. According to the news provider, the judge sentenced the veteran because of a violation of his probation program, and the stint was to last for 24 hours. It might have helped that the judge, Lou Olivera, is a veteran of the Gulf War himself.
The source pointed out that the judge made the decision to stay overnight in the jail with the veteran, Special Forces Green Beret Joseph Serna, upon seeing the defendant's physical reaction to the sentence.
"I thought about a story that I once read," Olivera explained, according to the ABA Journal. "It talked about a soldier with PTSD in a hole. … A family member, a therapist and a friend all throw down a rope to help the veteran suffering. Finally, a fellow veteran climbs into the hole with him. The soldier suffering with PTSD asks, 'Why are you down here?' The fellow veteran replied, 'I am here to climb out with you.'"
Notably, the entire case took place in a veterans-focused legal system of sorts, and one can only wonder how veterans suffering from PTSD will be received in civilian courts. These types of differences between the veteran community's handling of PTSD and that of the civilian shows that there is plenty of room for improvement from an awareness standpoint.
Contributing to the cause
Because PTSD has become so widespread, more programs and organizations are being devoted to assisting veterans who are suffering from the disorder. Veterans who want to get involved in raising awareness can do so as well, with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs running a program, and many others managing similar initiatives across the nation.
A unified approach to combating PTSD that brings together all members of a given community might be the best weapon against the disorder available today, as so much of the fight to recover relies on having a strong, diverse support system.