Traumatic experiences, such as those experienced by members of our military in the line of duty, can often change a person. Until fairly recently, the psychological injuries of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder were thought to be permanent. The prevailing culture encouraging members of the military to “be tough” can prevent some from seeking treatment. And, indeed, without proper treatment, the illness can be very difficult to overcome. Currently, 22 or more veterans who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan commit suicide each day. While each case is unique, there are various treatment methods employed by mental health professionals to help treat PTSD.
Popular treatment options have involved one-on-one talk therapy sessions with a psychologist, guided group discussions with other veterans. At the Debakey VA Medical Center in Houston, TX, Dr. Karin Thompson is finding some success with a new method of treatment she calls “prolonged exposure.” Veterans who suffer from PTSD each have their own set of triggers, stimuli that cause them to experience strong PTSD symptoms. These triggers can include stimuli such as sounds, smells, certain locations, or situations that bring to mind the stressors that led to their PTSD. In prolonged exposure therapy, veterans are exposed to their personal triggers either through in vivo exposure or imagined exposure while they are assisted in finding healthy ways to approach and deal with those triggers. Marine Corps veteran Vince Bryant is just one veteran who has experienced improvement with this new approach and recommends it to others, saying "You might think, you know, why put you in a situation you don't want to deal with? Well, guess what? That's more of a reason to put you in it because you never overcame it the first time."
The VA funds a crisis hotline for our veterans experiencing suicidal thoughts. No one should have to fight this battle alone. The phone number, open 24 hours a day day, 365 days a year is: 1-800-273-8255.