I survived combat in Iraq and a suicide attempt at home. But many veterans aren’t so lucky.

Sometimes, trauma can be more deadly than war itself. But the VA’s existing mental health services are woefully inadequate for a growing problem.

I’m supposed to be a statistic.

On July 14, 2012, drowning in grief and guilt, I tried to kill myself. Like so many veterans, I had found civilian life desperately difficult. War had drained me of joy. The sights, sounds and smells of the battlefield had been relentlessly looping in my head. The suffering seemed endless. And so, thinking there were no other options of escape, I turned to suicide.

Luckily, I survived. I avoided becoming one of the 20 veterans who kill themselves every day in this country. But I also witnessed firsthand all the ways that our nation’s mental health resources fail our fighting men and women. Department of Veterans Affairs facilities and the military simply aren’t equipped to properly treat sick vets. We must do better.  more

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Military veterans and suicide: How to help before it’s too late

The family of a veteran who took his own life is sharing his story in hopes of saving others.

Ricky Holmes, a United States Marine, was 22-years-old when he committed suicide.

“He grew up in North Providence and West Warwick,” said Ricky’s father, Russ Holmes.

Ricky’s stepmother, Sherry Holmes, described him as a gentle giant.

“He was always so kind to everyone,” Sherry said.

Russ shared similar sentiments.

“He was a happy-go-lucky kid with the whole world in front of him,” said Russ.  more

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Hearing Voices: PTSD and Auditory Hallucinations

Hallucinations and Combat Veterans with PTSD

Among combat veterans with PTSD30-40% report auditory hallucinations(AH). AH are more frequent in combat veterans with chronic PTSD and it has been suggested that this may reflect a distinct subtype of PTSD that may be under recognized for two reasons: first, patients are reluctant to report AH and, second, more emphasis has, traditionally, been placed on the intrusive images associated with PTSD and less on intrusive auditory hallucinations.

It is important to recognize that such patients do not have the overt changes in affect or bizarre delusions characteristic of other psychoses e.g. schizophrenia.  AH in PTSD appears to be seen more in veterans with higher combat exposure and more intense PTSD symptoms and who report more severe symptoms of hyperarousal. The AH are typically: ego-dystonic; contribute to an increases sense of isolation and shame; associated with feelings of lack of controllability; consist of combat-related themes and guilt; non bizarre; not associated with thought disorders and, overall, more refractory to treatment interventions.  more

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Group treatment reduces veterans’ PTSD symptom severity

Both group cognitive behavioral treatment and group present-centered treatment reduced PTSD symptom severity in veterans with PTSD, according to study findings.

“Relative to individual treatment approaches, there has been much less research conducted on PTSD group treatments,” Denise M. Sloan, PhD, professor of psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine and behavioral science division associate director at the National Center for PTSD, and colleagues wrote. “The majority of studies investigating PTSD group treatment have used an open trial design, which provides limited information about treatment efficacy.”    more

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Vets helping vets: Tackling mental health issues, one difficult conversation at a time

You can wave an American flag, put a bumper sticker on your car or tie a yellow ribbon around an old oak tree, but a difficult conversation about mental health with a veteran could actually save a life.

In a divisive time in the United States, almost all politicians and civilians can find common ground when it comes to supporting the troops. Yet, veterans are still dying daily due to a lack of mental health services.

In 2016, 6,079 veterans died by suicide across the country, according to data released by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Seventy of those deaths occurred n Indiana, and more than half of those veterans were 55 or older.  more

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Ending vet homelessness

AS WE CELEBRATE and honor our veterans, I would like to take a moment to reflect on our homeless veterans.

As administrator of the HUD New England Region, and a fellow veteran, I am strongly committed to and passionate about ensuring that every person who has served our country and is seeking and in need of housing, has a place to live with the support he or she needs to succeed.

HUD’s Annual Homeless Assessment Report finds the total number of reported veterans experiencing homelessness in 2018 decreased nationally by 5.4 percent since last year, falling to nearly half of the number of homeless veterans reported in 2010.  more

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I’m a Veteran With PTSD. The Medication I Take Makes Dating Difficult.

She was a cat lover with cotton-candy-colored hair and obnoxious tastes in music but similar politics to mine. While texting on Tinder, she suggested I might get to play with her kitty. We agreed that we would take her cat out to the park some time but that we would start with dinner and a drink. There were no other hints to me that anything thrilling might happen beyond my riding my motorcycle from Denver to Boulder for the meeting.

Sitting together at an Italian restaurant, we got past the cat conversation and progressed to politics and music, jokes and laughter. We were communicating freely and enjoying each other’s company — pretty much everything I wanted out of a first date.

As the waitress picked up the check, my date invited me back to her place. I went. I still didn’t think anything was going to happen until we were going to settle in to watch a movie and she changed her clothes right in front of me.

She asked to see my tattoos — I’ve got a lot of ink, even for a Marine — so that happened too. But not everything happened, and probably not as much as she expected. I explained about the injuries, the PTSD, the medication. She was nice about it. We eagerly agreed on a second date. “We should do this again, and finish what we started,” she said. “If we don’t, it’ll bug me. Like I’m not hot enough for you, or something.” I told her she was gorgeous and that next time would be better.  more

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Men won’t talk about depression, and it’s literally killing them

Men are less likely than women to discuss mental health issues and far more likely to attempt suicide. Can mobile apps help men save their own lives?

Meet John.
John* is in his 40s. He’s extremely successful and runs his own business, borne from decades of experience in his field. That business provides for his family.

John has a beautiful wife, four beautiful children, a beautiful home.
John also has depression.

The last six years, he says, contained some of the blackest days of his life. John kept quiet. This was a conscious decision. A business decision. “Nothing scares clients or investors quicker than the smell of desperation,” he says. “Saying anything about mental health is dangerous.”  more

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