Veterans Voices: Suffering in Silence, a special report on PTSD

Veterans Voices

It’s unseen, sometimes undiagnosed and other times unbearable for veterans. 

It’s PTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. 

In ways it’s become synonymous with our veterans population, but what causes it?

This November 7News is taking a closer look at PTSD.  What is it? How do you treat it? And why are so many of our veterans suffering in silence?

They have a hard time getting out of bed in the morning or they’re afraid to fall asleep at night. 

Phill West, WVU Medicine Clinical Therapist

It can be a loud noise.

It was actually kind of scary because you don’t know what’s going on but you know something’s not right.

Larry Daugherty, U.S. Army Veteran

Debris on the side of the road. 

I noticed that I had gotten short tempered at work and with my family.

Dale Lackey, U.S. Army Veteran.

Someone brushing up against you, that triggers the symptoms of PTSD. 

Nightmares, flashbacks, avoidance, almost like they’re a hidden observer looking down on life happening to somebody else, so they see their body happening, but they’re not feeling. There’s the emotional disconnect.”

Phill West, WVU Medicine Clinical Therapist

From combat veterans to trauma victims, everyone experiences PTSD differently, but what is it?

Simply put it’s a normal response to an adverse event, but for our veterans it’s anything but normal.  PTSD can manifest shortly after service, or it can take years. 

With World War II veteran, oftentimes they came home and went straight back to work and then once they retired they started a lot of them started then having recurring thoughts of what they experienced.

Phill West, WVU Medicine Clinical Therapist

Just like the experience is different for each veteran, so is the therapy. 

Take a veteran who is on a convoy mission, who was given his route by the chain of command, aan on the route they hit an IED, and fellow service members die. That veteran then blames himself. Cognitive processing therapy, you start teaching the veteran that there’s only one person that knew that that IED was there and that was the enemy.

Phill West, WVU Medicine Clinical Therapist

Cognitive processing therapy deals with restructuring thoughts, while instinctual trauma response therapy takes a different approach. It teaches those with PTSD to leave trauma in the past and create a safe space. Other traditional therapies include psycho dynamic therapy, prolonged exposure therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy and eye movement desensitization reprocessing or EDMR.

If the symptoms are too much at the beginning of therapy, medication management may also be used.

West said as part of any therapy he encourages self-care through exercise, gardening or whatever calms that individual.

While physical injuries heal, PTSD doesn’t.  

“I almost view trauma the way I view grief.  We never get over the loss of a loved one. We learn to live with that loss.”

Phill West, WVU Medicine Clinical Therapist

PTSD isn’t just a problem for our veteran population. It can also be seen in sexual assault survivors, car accident victims or those with a major medical complication like cancer.

Veterans and first responders live with it every day, and carry the stigma of mental health with them.

I’ve worked as a paramedic for close to 20 years now and I see what we go through and what other people go through, what law enforcement goes through and it’s tough.

Dale Lackey, U.S. Army Veteran

If we can learn to accept mental health the same way that we accept physical help in our society then people are going to be more apt to talk about it and open up about it.

Phill West, WVU Medicine Clinical Therapist

West said it’s also important to have family support, and encourages family to take therapy themselves to learn what trauma is. He also cautioned in the early stages of therapy that symptoms may get worse. When that happens, don’t discourage your loved one, encourage them to keep going.

PTSD doesn’t leave a battle scar, but the internal wounds are there. 

You can see a leg that’s blown off or an arm that’s missing. Guys with TBI and PTSD are going through the same exact things too.

Larry Daugherty, U.S. Army Veteran

If you or a loved one is struggling with PTSD, there are resources that can help.

Contact the Wheeling Vet Center at 1-877-WAR-VETS or 304-232-0587.

You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.

The Belmont County Veterans Service Office can be reached at 740-325-1042.

Contact the Jefferson County Veterans Service Commission at 740-283-8571.

In Steubenville, the Vietnam Veterans Support Group meets Wednesdays from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. Contact John Radvansky at 304-551-4230 or Jack Ernest at 740-632-2579. Membership is open to all military combat veterans.

Veterans in emergency situations can call the V.A. Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and press 1.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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