The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Veterans come home fighting another battle

By Victoria Almond/reporter

The military calls it “the silent killer” or “the battle behind the battle.” Its official name is post-traumatic stress disorder.

Whatever it’s called, Jeremy suffers from it. And it has messed him up.

Jeremy, who asked that his last name not be used because it might slow his recovery, is an Army veteran who served for three years before getting medically discharged.

After he served in Iraq and Afghanistan and returned home, it didn’t take long for the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder to begin hurting him. He drank too much. He did illegal drugs. He chain-smoked cigarettes.

He lashed out at those closest to him — his family and his friends.

“I feel like the American people don’t give a f— about us,” he said. “They just slap a ‘Support Your Troops’ sticker on their car, and that’s as good as it gets.”

Jeremy is far from alone. The Department of Veterans Affairs estimated that as many as one in five veterans of the war in Iraq struggle with PTSD. For veterans who served in Afghanistan, it’s an estimated one in 10 veterans.

“Here at NE Campus, we are trying to educate faculty, staff and students about PTSD,” said David Sallee, NE geology instructor and a U.S. Marine reserves and Navy veteran. “We want to educate everyone on how to recognize it and what do — as well as what not to do.”

An estimated 2,000 veterans are enrolled at TCC, and the college clearly is mindful of their presence. Several programs have been set up specifically for veterans, such as the Northeast Veterans Association, to bring veterans together and help with their transition back into the civilian life.

However well-intentioned, the programs can’t reach all veterans. Some slip through the cracks, and no matter how often a veteran is told there’s nothing to be ashamed of in having PTSD, some can’t help but view it as a stigma, Sallee said.

“It’s very difficult living with others who don’t understand why I’m so anxious all the time or quick to anger,” Jeremy said. “They try to understand, but they don’t understand.”

It’s common for a person with PTSD to appear distant, angry, anxious or paranoid. The inability to understand or lack of education about PTSD causes relationships to suffer because symptoms are taken personally.

Jobs are lost, substance abuse often occurs and more stressful problems can occur for the person diagnosed with PTSD and the family, according to trauma experts.

“My first contact with PTSD was my oldest brother who came back from Vietnam in 1968,” Sallee said. “It is extremely difficult and impossible to understand what a person with PTSD is going through if you have not experienced it to some degree yourself. You feel helpless, don’t know what to do or say and you go through the whole range of emotions.”

Trauma experts claim that providing love to those with PTSD is the most important factor in recovery.

“If a veteran cannot keep it together at school, cannot hold down a job and has lost all or most of their friends, how can we expect relationships to last?” Sallee said. “This makes it really messed up in that the person that means the most to you and can give you the love you so desperately want and need is oftentimes the one you are the hardest on and the one you push away.”

Experts and counselors at TCC suggest several ways that students, faculty, staff and veterans themselves can help with this dreaded disease.

Dealing with PTSD within the family can be a difficult task. Trauma experts’ vital coping measures when dealing with PTSD within the family or a relationship include patience, empathetic listening and education. trauma experts said recovery happens at its own pace and will take time. Education on PTSD better equips the family or friend to help the one with PTSD and keeps things in perspective.

Apart from being an empathetic listener, other tips for friends and family members include expressing commitment, creating routines, being aware of the triggers for the person who has PTSD, minimizing stress, speaking of the future and making plans, keeping promises and believing in recovery.

“We have webinars once or twice per year to promote education and awareness, and we are talking of having a panel presentation and discussion with the faculty association soon,” said Sallee, who said he puts veterans first and always has an open door for those who need to talk.

Despite the importance of love and support from family and friends, sometimes that isn’t always enough. Some people with PTSD need professional treatment.

“I think that everyone with PTSD must have treatment,” Sallee said. “You cannot do it on your own. It will not go away on its own.”

Treatments for those with PTSD include therapy, counseling and medication. Research studies and doctors are developing further treatment plans for those with PTSD in the near future.

Jeremy encourages therapy for other veterans because he said it does help with coping and living with PTSD.

“I think PTSD will never go away. I think you’ll always have it,” he said. “You just learn to live with it and cope better through treatments.”

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