The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan inflicted trauma to soldiers’ brains resulting in what is called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD. Armed Forces were unprepared to treat the mental health wounds of war, manifested in the forms of addiction, domestic violence, and suicide. In addition, some veterans found themselves incarcerated for horrible crimes, including murder.
However, treatment of PTSD is available and effective. Veterans in Minnesota can seek help by contacting their local Veterans Service Officer for resources. Willmar has a service officer located at the Kandiyohi Health and Human Services building. St. Cloud Veterans Administration has an inpatient mental health unit and mental health outpatient clinic. There is also a Veterans Administration Outpatient Clinic located in Montevideo.
Treatment begins with an assessment to determine the extent of the problems. Medicines may be prescribed to decrease or lower activity, in certain areas of the brain, that became overactive during war. In addition to medicines, group support with peers provides a safe place to share similar stories and reduce a sense of isolation.
Addiction to drugs and or alcohol, an attempt to “self-medicate” symptoms of PTSD, needs to be reduced or stopped. This may require treatment in an inpatient chemical dependency program or outpatient program depending on the severity of the addiction.
Family education and support also is a component of healing. Family members have experienced both the terrifying fear of losing a loved one in battle and now by the assault of PTSD. Family members need support and someone to listen to them. They need to know that there is hope and that their loved one can recover.
Please go to http://www.ptsd.va.gov/index.asp.
And until next time, treat others and yourself with kindness; it’s good for your brain.