By Debra B. Johnson, Executive Director, St. Clair County Community Mental Health
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a behavioral disorder that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, a serious accident, a terrorist act, combat, or violent assault. Examples of PTSD as the result of combat can be found in literature going back thousands of years. Until recently, it was seen by many as the result of weakness or failure on the part of a military service person. Of course, we know now that PTSD is much more common than previously thought among combat veterans and does not result from any character defect, but rather it is a mental illness resulting from trauma.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports that of the 2.7 million veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, approximately 20% suffer from PTSD. These individuals continue to have troubling thoughts and feelings about one or more traumatic events that lasts long after the event has ended. They may experience flashbacks, nightmares, sadness, fear, anger, and detachment from others. Frequently, they avoid situations and people that may remind them of the traumatic event.
Unfortunately, approximately half of all veterans who experience PTSD don’t get the mental health care they need because they don’t know how to access services, don’t realize they are eligible for services, or because of the perceived stigma attached to mental health conditions. This is caused in part because there is no automatic enrollment with the Veterans Administration (VA) when individuals complete their military service. As a result, veterans often need assistance finding VA facilities, navigating the complicated and sometimes long application process, and appealing rejected claims. Almost 13,000 veterans live in St. Clair County and many experiences some of these same obstacles to receiving mental health care.
St. Clair County Community Mental Health (SCCCMH) offers several treatment options for veterans and others experiencing PTSD. These include Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PET), a type of cognitive behavioral therapy that teaches individuals to gradually approach trauma-
related memories, feelings and situations, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), which helps alleviate trauma-related distress, and Trauma Recovery and Empowerment Model (TREM), which incorporates the neurological, biological, psychological, and social effects of trauma into all aspects of mental health services.
St. Clair County Community Mental Health (CMH) also has a Veteran’s Navigator, Wendy Martindale, who works to link veterans in our community with needed services such as housing, medical assistance, employment, and mental health services. Wendy works closely with
the St. Clair County Department of Veteran’s Affairs (SCCVA) to assist eligible individuals in navigating the process to secure health care, employment opportunities, disability compensation, housing grants, pensions, veteran-specific education and training, emergency grants, and even survivor’s benefits.
Less than ½ of 1% of Americans make the difficult choice to protect the rest of us by risking their lives and their futures by joining the United States military. We all have responsibility to honor them for their service and support them upon their return to civilian life. The next time you see a veteran, thank them for their service! If you are a veteran in need of
assistance, please call us. You do not need to qualify for SCCCMH services in order to work with our Veteran’s Navigator. Remember, treatment is available and recovery is possible! The help is free and can be accessed by calling our Access hotline at 1-888-225-4447.