Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is the most common ailment of war veterans in the United States. PTSD occurs after an individual witnesses or experiences a traumatic events; these events typically threaten the individual’s life or personhood. A variety of people are diagnosed with PTSD, not just veterans, and specific causes remain unclear. Two people can experience the same traumatic event, but only one is diagnosed with PTSD. There are several hypotheses to this, such as varying chemical releases, family history, and life experiences. Regardless of specific causes, many of those who fought for national security do not have mental security. Not only are PTSD patients regularly taunted with past experiences, they also are more likely to experience homelessness. PTSD forces its captives to relive the traumatic experience; this can interfere with the patient’s ability to keep a job and likely results in drug or alcohol abuse to numb the pain.
This research paper will look at specific relationships between soldiers with PTSD, whether or not they are a minority group, and how to combination of the two leave victims homeless. This is an important field of research, as these soldiers fought for American freedom, yet are not given healthcare and housing that they deserve. By having a clearer understanding of the disease and those plighted by it, human services personnel can better serve veterans. While veterans with PTSD are a large portion of those returning home from war, the government needs to provide the necessary assistance to give these individuals the tools to have a thriving life.
Those with PTSD have a difficult time keeping a job or being involved in normal social interactions because the symptoms keep them trapped in the traumatic experience of the past. The Mayo Clinic gives an overview of PTSD and how it affects everyday life in their article, “Disease and Conditions: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The Mayo Clinic explains that symptoms of PTSD include flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety, and uncontrollable thoughts. These symptoms limit PTSD patients ability to be involved in everyday life. Those who went to war saw traumatic happenings such as bombs, death, extreme fire, and killing others. Veterans with PTSD relive these experiences frequently. Conversely, veterans who experienced that same atrocities but were not diagnosed with PTSD overcame memories of war. This is not to say they do not remember their time at war or grieve over their involvement, but they have control of the experience and can put it behind them.
PTSD patients not only have a difficulty with reliving the experience, there are a variety of other risk that they are exposed to. PTSD victims are more likely to be depressed, alcoholics or drug addicts, have an eating disorder, or have suicidal thoughts or actions (Mayo Clinic). These risk factors, in many ways, are a direct result of constantly dealing with their war experience. Veterans are depressed because they have no control over when memories come or go. They use drugs and alcohol to subdue their thoughts; these actions limit their ability to hold a job or participate in day-to-day life in a normal way. Eating disorders are also a way for PTSD patients to feel a sense of control in their life. The patient resort to suicidal thoughts and actions as a means of ending the daily turmoil.
While there are treatments for PTSD, the vast number of veterans with PTSD limit the government’s ability to provide sufficient treatment to all of those affected. Craig Kabatchnick writes about the veterans from various wars and the rate at which they were diagnosed with PTSD in his article, “PTSD and its Effects on Elderly, Minority, and Female Veterans of All Wars.” People began to become aware of PTSD during the Civil War, but it was not sophisticatedly named and labeled until the twentieth century. At that time, communities began to notice personality changes in some of the individuals who went to war. It was not until the Korean War that people began to label PTSD, yet support for those patients had not yet been established. Kabatchnick found that 80 percent of Korean War veterans had PTSD; the prevalence of this disease was the threat of frostbite on their life.
The saturation of PTSD on the community at large caused the government to change their practices with soldiers in the Vietnam War. At the start of the war, the government provided ample support, keeping soldiers safe from PTSD up until 1968 (Kabatchnick). After 1968 effort declined, and a large portion of soldiers were exposed to traumatic environments, leaving 70 percent of Vietnam veterans with PTSD. Critics speculate that the young age of soldiers, public disgrace, and the limitless battleground induced PTSD (Kabatchnick). This segment of PTSD veterans are left homeless or incarcerated.
The Korean War taught the government technics to prevent PTSD in the Vietnam War, and the Vietnam War was a learning opportunity that was carried over into the Afghanistan and Iraq war. The Vietnam War proved that efforts to prevent PTSD can fail and, instead, the government should look for ways to identify and treat the disease. Those returning from deployment must undergo mental health screenings. These screening occur in two parts; the first part is an electronic questionnaire, while the second is a face-to-face interview (Kabatchnick). These assessments have identified a vast number of PTSD victims. In 2007 an estimated 28,364 veterans were diagnosed with this disease (Kabatchnick). This figure does not include those who avoid diagnosis in order to keep their dignity in tack.
Native Americans, African Americans, and Hispanic Americans fought alongside white troops in many of these wars. Some studies indicate that PTSD is more prevalent in some minority groups than the white population. For example, studies from the Vietnam war found that more African-American soldiers were diagnosed with PTSD than caucasian soldier; 27.9 percent of African-American soldiers were diagnosed and 13.7 percent of white soldiers. Studies have shown that Hispanic Americans are also more likely to be diagnosed with PTSD (Kabatchnick). While it is not clear why some people groups have a higher rate than other, the veteran affairs should recognize this difference and provide more resources to at-risk groups to help lower diagnosis rates and provide care for those who do experience traumatic experiences.
The efforts to diagnose PTSD patients in not alway affective and, when it is, the military lacks resources to treat the massive number of veterans fighting the disease. There are three types of PTSD, acute, chronic, and delayed onset. Post deployment screening can catch acute and chronic PTSD, as the symptoms set in within the first three months, but delayed onset does not show symptoms until 6 months after the traumatic event (Kabatchnick). This delay can allow victims to go unnoticed. In addition, the military is unprepared to treat PTSD. a majority of PTSD veterans are sent to Walter Reed Medical Center for treatment, yet the center lacks facilities to treat PTSD.
Lack of treatment allow the mental illness to grow and take over the patient’s life. Kabatchnick found that 75 percent of all PTSD patients, including those not in the military, are homeless. These individuals were never taught to deal with their illness and let it consume them. Fortunately for the more than 200,000 homeless military individuals with PTSD, experts have found successful PTSD treatments. The Mayo Clinic finds that PTSD can be treated with psychotherapy and medication; psychotherapy is the most successful and included cognitive therapy, exposure therapy, and Eye Motion Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy. While these techniques exist, funding and awareness is needed to provide these treatments to military personnel in need.
PTSD does not discriminate on race or gender, but, unfortunately, treatment does. Ron Armstead discuss the prejudice of PTSD treatment in his article, “2013 National Coalition for Homeless Veterans.” White men in the military are more likely to receive PTSD treatment than minority soldiers. Despite the prefered treatment, African American soldiers are more likely to be diagnosed. The high number of minority victims suffering from PTSD create a larger figure of homeless minority veterans.
Too many veterans are returning home with PTSD and are not given the resources to manage their illness. Human Services must identify risk factors that veterans face. Many veterans are diagnosed with PTSD, leaving them more susceptible to homelessness and drug abuse. If Human Services want to protect veterans and repay them for their service, they must recognize the history of PTSD. Human Services uses tangible information to correct problems plaguing society. Veterans with PTSD have a high risk of becoming homeless. Minorities are more susceptible to PTSD and, as a result, more likely to end up homeless. Human Services must use research like this to understand the problem of PTSD and combat it head-on, helping those at risk of drug or alcohol abuse or homelessness. Without proper treatment, these individual are left to suffer and, in some cases, become homeless or suicidal. If the United States government can afford to send young men and women to war, they must also find fund to provide the best healthcare for those individuals when they return home.
- Armstead, R. (2013). Halfway Home: Progress in the Plan to End Veterans Homelessness. CONGRESSIONAL BLACK CAUCUS VETERANS BRAINTRUST.
- Kabatchnick, C. (2009). PTSD and its Effects on Elderly, Minority, and Female Veterans of All Wars. Marquette Elder’s Advisor, 10(2), 269-308.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. (n.d.). Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/post-traumatic-stress-disorder/basics/coping-support/con-20022540