PTSD is brought on by any traumatic experience, explained Alcorn County Veterans Service Officer Pat Ray. For veterans that trigger is often experiences in combat, but the disorder can also be caused by any significant traumatic experience such as an assault, an automobile accident, a rape or any other similar experience.
The United States Veterans Administration has set aside June as PTSD Awareness Month in an effort to reach out to veterans and the community with information on the disorder and the wide variety of resources available to help veterans cope with its devastating impact.
Ray said she is seeing more and more veterans coming into her office who are suffering with the disorder, many who may not even realize it.
“We are seeing a lot, a lot of PTSD,she said.
When left untreated PTSD can lead to a wide variety of problems. Sufferers may experience flashbacks to the traumatic experience. They can suffer from intense anxiety, fear or depression. Many also struggle with severe bouts of anger. They often find themselves either deliberately or subconsciously separating themselves from the people they are close to in their lives and many get into trouble attempting to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol.
“It's actually debilitating and it not only affects the veteran, it affects the family,said Ray.
The veterans service office staff has been trained to help spot the symptoms of PTSD and has access to a vast array of resources that can help those struggling with it to get their lives back on track.
Ray said she is seeing PTSD symptoms in veterans of all ages, from those who have served in the most recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan to older veterans who served in Vietnam or even World War II.
Many years ago veterans suffering from what is now known as PTSD were simply said to have “shell shock” and there weren't a lot of options to help them deal with their experiences. That's all changed now, said Ray.
The Veterans Administration offers free help to veterans dealing with PTSD including access to medical professionals such as doctors, psychologists and psychiatrists in both one-on-one and group settings, support groups that allow veterans to share their experiences with others who have gone through the same trauma, and much more. There can also be financial benefits available to veterans whose PTSD is determined to be directly related to their military service.
The first step in getting help is to reach out for it, said Ray.
The Veterans Service Office staff is available to help veterans and their families navigate the VA system and connect them with the help they need and all the benefits they're entitled to.
“We'll sit down with them, talk with them and encourage them,said Ray.
The staff will help with all aspects of the process including filling out paperwork, making appointments and helping arrange transportation if necessary. They are there full-time to help veterans get access to all the benefits they've earned by serving their country.
Ray emphasized that all consultations with her office are strictly confidential and veterans and families can be assured they're privacy will be respected as they seek help with this or any other issue.
She recommends those seeking assistance make an appointment with her office so they can be sure to have plenty of time available for each individual needing their help.
To make an appointment or for more information, call them at 662-286-7744. For more information on PTSD and resources available through the Veterans Administration, visit www.ptsd.va.gov.