Saturday, October 13, 2012

Veteran suicide rate reaches epidemic status

he biggest threat both on and off the battlefield is suicide, not enemy bullets or bombs. A recent study has determined that more military personal space die of suicide than as a result of enemy action. Veterans and military service members have always had a higher rate of suicide compared to the civilian population but it has increased. This increase in veteran and military suicide is in doubt related to the ongoing war in Afghanistan and the ongoing operations in Iraq. We have been at war for over a decade now and repeated deployments to these war torn regions is injuring the souls and minds of our fighting men and women.

Mental health issues appear to be the cause of this increased rate of suicide for veterans. Many veterans return home with depression, PTSD and or substance abuse problems. I know these problems well because they are my problems too. I have even grappled with suicidal thinking and resulting hospitalizations. There were times that my military related PTSD and depression almost got the best of me.

So what saved my life from becoming another statistic in the veteran's suicide rate? What saved my life was reaching out for help when i needed it. When i felt hopeless and thought that i couldn't march on as a young disabled veteran, i luckily, called my therapist almost every time. The result was sometimes short term hospitalization but it saved my life.

What veterans at risk for suicide need to realize is that asking for help when depressed or suicidal is not a weakness and they will not be judged by doing so. There should be no second thinking a call for help but i can picture people being hesitant to do so. It is because we ask ourselves "what will they think?" Nobody wants to be thought of as a crazy or unstable person. Yet when we do decide to reveal that we have very personal or emotional problems, we feel vulnerable in doing so because we do not want to be thought of any differently.

However, veterans should know that if they are hospitalized for suicidal behavior then there may be civil consequences to face after the hospitalization. For example, i was hospitalized for suicidal behavior at a veterans hospital. Within a year after the hospitalization i received notice from the state of Illinois that said i was no longer allowed to get a firearms owner card. The notice went on to say that i basically can't own guns anymore. This restriction didn't upset me too much because I don't own firearms but it does hurt to have my rights limited.

Friday, October 5, 2012

What are veteran's hospitals like? A description of VA healthcare.

Veterans need to connect with the appropriate care for their service connected and general healthcare needs. Hopefully most transitioning military veterans are briefed on healthcare and linking up with veteran hospitals. Sadly,many veterans fall through the cracks or have difficulty navigating the VA hospital system. It is of crucial importance that a veteran gets certified for healthcare by the VA as soon as possible. This will help in the continuation of care for current injuries and insure that the veteran is covered for any maladies that may arise in the future.

But what is it like to be treated at a VA hospital? This question lingers in the heads of the veterans that are hesitant to visit the VA. Will they receive the appropriate healthcare and be treated with dignity during appointments or hospital stays? Is the care below that which an insured patient would receive at a normal civilian hospital? The answer it would seem would vary from hospital or region. I have been treated in Los Angeles,Chicago and Florida. I have experienced good care and bad care in different situations.

Some of the best healthcare that i received as a veteran going through PTSD was given at the West Los Angeles VA hospital. There was a dedicated building and clinic there that focused on treating post traumatic stress disorder. I was a part of a program there that used a combination of group therapy,psychotherapy and medication to treat veterans coming back with PTSD. The clinic was led by a social worker named Leslie Martin. She was warm and easy to talk to and often brought her dog to group therapy. (The dog was an actual certified therapy dog and even sported a VA identification badge on his collar.)

What made the West LA VA hospital the best was its people for the most part and by that i mean both the staff and the patients. Perhaps Californian people are just cool like that but i do think the VA hospital there was better than other places. I do have to admit a fondness for California and that might bias my preferences.

One complaint common to most VA hospital experiences is long wait times. I have experienced lengthy waits on prescriptions,emergency room visits,and any other additional testing that a doctor requires at an appointment. I have also had to wait several weeks to a month or more for initial appointments or other things. I have learned that the VA is allot like the military in that you must "hurry up and wait" to get anything done.

I would have to say that the atmosphere and cleanliness of VA hospitals should be improved. I am sure for the most part that the veterans hospital is a clean, sterile environment but i have seen things that make me scratch my head and wonder. Every time that i have used the bathroom at the Hines VA in Chicago, there has been feces in the floor and or walls of the bathroom stall. Apparently, an upset or troubled patient threw poop all over the place. It got to a point where i fear using the bathroom at the Hines VA hospital.

Which brings me to comment on the overall atmosphere of veteran hospitals. For the most part,a visit to the veteran hospital is going to depress you a little. The interior facilities are usually dated,drab and sometimes downright dungeon like. Hines VA hospital in Chicago fits this point well. I will take photos next time. A visit to the VA overall seems to depress and fatigue me which has led me time and time again to skip appointments or not even request them.

However,it is with sincere and absolute gratitude in my heart that i accept this healthcare. I feel any other government could have turned its back on their veterans. We as a group are fortunate in my eyes because we are compensated for our suffering and given healthcare at no cost to us. Yet as a group we tend to come off as unappreciative of what has been given to us. I,for one,am grateful for the medical care that i have received this past decade. I did also have the pleasure of seeing private doctors during the past ten years. Let me say that the care i received at private hospitals outdid and was much more effective than the care i received at the veterans hospitals. Why did i make that statement about the VA versus the private healthcare system. Well,i have experienced excellent care for inpatient and outpatient psychiatric care at a private hospital. The experience there was pivotal to me making progress with my PTSD. I received types of therapy that i haven't even heard of in the years of previous treatment through veteran hospital care. These new and different therapies included EMDR and psychosocial drama therapy or at least i think that is what it was called. These therapies helped me greatly and i would not have received them at the VA. Yet i do credit both hospital systems for my personal level of recovery.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

PTSD or Post traumatic stress disorder in veterans

PTSD Or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder In Veterans It’s not uncommon for veterans to suffer from PTSD, otherwise referred to as post-traumatic stress disorder because of what they have had to go through in the military with wars, operations and even the yelling of drill sergeants. The symptoms can be treated in a number of ways, too, to help provide some relief for veterans around the country. Over the years, PTSD has come to be a very important mental health condition to have treated. When it was first seen, many in the medical community disregarded it, however when more and more veterans were experiencing it, as well as those who were witness to a crime or a terrifying event, there was no denying that it was a very real condition. In many cases PTSD can include nightmares, flashbacks and a significant amount of anxiety. Those who were in the military have often been witness to events that they would much rather forget. However, they are reliving it over and over again in their mind. This can lead to hopelessness about the future, trouble concentrating, feels of irritability and anger and even trouble sleeping. PTSD veterans can get the help they need through therapy and medication. Often it is best for those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder to get the help they need from other veterans who have been through the same thing and are now dealing with the effects of the condition, too. This camaraderie can be the most important way to deal with the previous experiences. Throughout the different forms of treatment, representatives in Vermont are now looking at adding post-traumatic stress disorder to the list of disorders and conditions that will allow a person to get medicinal marijuana. The marijuana, when used with PTSD veterans can be the best way for a person to get over some of their concentration issues as well as to prevent a self-destructive behavior. Many veterans who are dealing with PTSD go through symptoms in one (or all) of three categories: Intrusive memories, avoidance and increased anxiety. Depending upon what a person is dealing with, the treatment will be different. A person may even go through all of the categories throughout time as the memories and nightmares occur at different times. War and the military are different than witnessing a crime. Veterans lived through it on a regular basis so it wasn’t just a single occurrence. As a result, it is harder for veterans to just turn off their memories and forget what happened, whether it was locally or on foreign soil. PTSD veterans need to get the support that they need through therapy, support groups and medication so that they can function properly with their loved ones and throughout society

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