Veterans use U.S. Army tweet to protest lack of mental health care
June is PTSD Awareness Month
MIAMI – A U.S. Army post asking how military service has impacted lives is still getting harrowing answers five days after it was published on Twitter.
Leslie E. Shirkey, who identified as a U.S. Army veteran, said students who are considering signing up for the college money need to think about the risks of suffering from Post-traumatic stress disorder, a treatable mental health condition that includes symptoms of anxiety.
"Both of my daughters served and one is 100% disabled with PTSD and could care less about college now," Shirkey wrote. "I loved my time in the Army but my girls did not. War is HELL!"
Shirkey wasn't alone. Struggles with access to mental health care were at the heart of most of the answers, so the U.S. Army shared the Veterans Crisis Line, which offers free support 24 hours a day all week at 1-800-273-8255, via text message at 838255 or on the confidential crisis chat service.
James Marx, a Twitter user, shared his journey after seeking help with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which sustains the Veterans Crisis Line program. He was suffering with PTSD after serving in Iraq and it took him three years to get the VA to treat him after the agency denied him coverage twice.
He said the VA makes the appeal process so "convoluted and impossible" that veterans give up when paperwork is lost or an official says the records never left the unit. He also said he has lost one to three "battle buddies" a year to suicide and has called the crisis line dozens of times.
"Ironically, I'd never felt suicidal before that first denial letter," Marx wrote. "By the time soldiers break free of the indoctrination that PTSD is weakness and have the courage to admit they need help, getting told 'you're fine, claim denied,' is the most crushing thing ever."
The story was familiar for Jessica Montgomery. She said her medic husband came back from Iraq with PTSD and a traumatic brain injury only to "fall through the cracks of a broken VA system time and time again."
Madison Valentina said PTSD has made it difficult for her to keep a job. She said the VA Medical Center has her waiting for cognitive therapy. Lexapro, an antidepressant that works by enhancing the function of nerve cells in the brain to regulate emotion, and hydroxizine, a short-term treatment for anxiety, aren't really helping her either.
"I still get night terrors and my PTSD flare up whenever I'm in grocery store, events," Valentina wrote.
Resources on the web
- The Weill Cornell Medicine's program for anxiety and traumatic stress studies offers free services.
- The National Center for PTSD has a treatment decision aid.
- The VA has two free self-help courses for relatives of patients with PTSD.
- RAND Corporation's Invisible Wounds research.
- The VA's AboutFace campaign has anecdotal videos.
- The VA has a PTSD educational handouts.
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