Posted by Navy CAPT Paul S. Hammer on June 27, 2012
Updated classic World War I-era recruitment poster. Photo courtesy of Ilona Meagher.
Today as we recognize National PTSD Awareness Day, let’s seize the opportunity to try and better understand PTSD and shed any pre-conceived notions we may have about those who live with PTSD (or any other mental illness). He or she could be anyone — your neighbor, a family member, a close friend, an employee, a colleague, or the person in front of you in line at the grocery store.
We have all read the media headlines surrounding PTSD over the last decade. “War damaged vet kills girlfriend; PTSD to blame?” “Soldier accused in firefight with police is prisoner to PTSD.” “Afghan Massacre: US Soldier ‘Snapped’ Lawyer Mulls PTSD Defense.” “Retirement might unleash PTSD symptoms in Vietnam veterans.” Headlines like these are not helpful. I think they actually contribute to promoting stigma because they call to mind dramatic images that generally aren’t true.
It’s important to recognize that not everyone who has been in combat or who has experienced a traumatic event will develop PTSD. In fact, the vast majority doesn’t develop PTSD, and even those with PTSD symptoms tend to get better with time. Those who do develop PTSD, or who do well in the short term and have symptoms arise later, shouldn’t be feared or viewed as ticking time bombs. They are people who are suffering, often quietly, and deserve help and support. They should never be pitied nor should they be marginalized or turned into a grotesque caricature or cartoon character.