OEM Observes PTSD Awareness Month: Enhancing Support and Understanding for Service Members

By Denise Kovalevich, Office of Enterprise ManagementJune 10, 2024

(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

This month marks the 10th anniversary of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Awareness Month, a time dedicated to raising awareness and educating others about this often-overlooked psychiatric condition. And while roughly six percent of the American population will be diagnosed with this mental health illness in their lifetime (National Center for PTSD), no other group has been more affected by PTSD than the military community.

Varying by service era, statistics from the National Center for PTSD show that the number of Veterans who have been diagnosed with PTSD during their lives can range from as high as 29 percent for Operations Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Enduring Freedom (OEF) and 21 percent for the Persian Gulf War (Desert Storm). This is in comparison to Veterans from the Vietnam War (10 percent) and World War II (WWII) and Korean War (three percent).

These numbers aren’t just stats to us at the Office of Enterprise Management (OEM). They are soldiers, parents, husbands, wives, friends, and, most importantly, they are the brave men and women who defend our country each and every day. As they are safeguarding our freedoms, we believe it’s our duty to protect and support their mental health.

What is PTSD? 

To adequately address PTSD, we must first understand what it is. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, PTSD is “a disorder that develops in some people who have experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event.” The specific nature of the trauma can, and does, vary greatly. Medical experts are quick to point out that while combat and combat-related military service can be traumatic, not everyone who serves under such conditions reacts the same way. Some may develop symptoms of PTSD, while others may be unaffected. Similarly, one does not need to involved in combat to experience PTSD. Other sources that can trigger PTSD can include natural disasters, car or other accidents, any kind of abuse or neglect, or death of a loved one.  The diagnosis depends on the person and their view of the experience.

The Four Main Signs and Symptoms of PTSD

When diagnosing patients with PTSD, professionals look at the four main groups of symptoms associated with PTSD and the frequency in which they appear. If you, or a loved one, is experiencing any or all of the below symptoms, please contact a healthcare professional. Other resources are located below.

(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
What if PTSD is Left Untreated? 

PTSD can severely impact an individual's daily activities and diminish his or her quality of life. Effective treatment can help reduce symptoms such as anxiety, depression, and hypervigilance, enabling individuals to engage more fully in their personal, social, and professional lives.

Untreated PTSD often leads to the development of additional mental health issues, such as severe depression, serious anxiety disorders, and substance abuse. By addressing PTSD early, it is possible to prevent or mitigate the onset of these co-occurring conditions.

Most concerning, PTSD is a risk factor for suicide. The National Center for PTSD reported that the suicide rate among male Veterans is 38 percent and nearly 13 percent among female Veterans. (Dial 988 for the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline if you need help.)

Emergency Resources for Those in Crisis

Service members and Veterans who are in crisis or having thoughts of suicide, and those who know a service member or Veteran in crisis, can find help and support at the following locations:

  • Call the Veterans/Military Crisis Line for confidential support available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Call (800) 273-8255 and Press 1, text to 838255 or chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat
  • Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (Lifeline) at 1-800-273-8255, or text the Crisis Text Line — text HELLO to 741741. Both services are free and available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. All calls are confidential. 
  • Call 988 anytime to speak with a crisis counselor. The call is confidential and free.  
  • Chat online with a crisis counselor at 988lifeline.org.  
  • Visit Military OneSource for 24/7 access to information and support  
  • For more information about suicide and PTSD, the National Center for PTSD offers an online course through the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs at: Suicide and PTSD: Navigating Risk and Tailoring Evidence-Based Treatment
Help for Those Supporting Loved Ones with PTSD 

Supporting someone with PTSD involves understanding his or her condition, being patient, and offering practical and emotional assistance. To provide support, experts suggest the following:

  • Educate Yourself – Learn About PTSD. Understand the symptoms, triggers, and treatments. This helps in recognizing what your loved one is experiencing. Visit National Center For PTSD: About PTSD for more information.  
  • Communication – Listen Actively. Give your full attention, show empathy, and avoid judgment when he or she shares experiences or feelings. Also, encourage open dialogue; let your loved one know you are available to talk. And always use supportive language. Avoid phrases that might invalidate his or her feelings, such as "Just get over it" or "It could be worse." 
  • Provide Emotional Support – Be patient and understanding. Healing from PTSD takes time. Be patient with the process and any setbacks that may arise. 
  • Validate His or Her Feelings – Acknowledge his or her emotions and experiences without trying to fix or minimize them. 
  • Offer Reassurance – Let him or her know that you are there.  
  • Encourage Professional Help – Suggest Therapy. Encourage professional help from therapists or counselors who specialize in PTSD. 
  • Offer to Help Find Resources – Help find a therapist, support groups, or other resources. 
  • Take Care of Yourself – Seek Support. Consider joining a support group for friends and family of individuals with PTSD. Also, set boundaries: Ensure that you have your own space and time to recharge. And remember to practice self-care. Maintain your own health and well-being so you can be there for your loved one. For additional help, National Center for PTSD: Help For Friends and Families

The prevalence of PTSD among our Armed Forces underscores the profound impact of military service on mental health. Addressing this issue is not only a matter of duty and responsibility, but also of compassion and humanity. The Army is committed to comprehensive mental health support that is crucial in ensuring that those who have served their country receive the care they need and deserve. Through awareness, education, support, and understanding, we can help set a precedent for mental health care that can benefit all branches of the military and civilian communities alike. Because addressing PTSD in the Army is about more than just treatment; it's about building a future where every soldier feels valued, supported, and empowered to overcome the invisible wounds of war.