For many civilians, Memorial Day weekend means relaxation and barbecues, family and friends, and maybe a bit of travel. However, because it is a day dedicated to our fallen men and women in uniform, Memorial Day can be challenging for some veterans living with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The condition can conjure painful memories, images, and thoughts of a traumatic event that happened during the person’s military service.
Read on to learn more about PTSD in veterans and how to help those who may be struggling this Memorial Day weekend.
What Is PTSD?
PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that develops in people who have witnessed or experienced a traumatic event. The condition can last months or even years, with triggers that can conjure memories of the trauma. These memories are often accompanied by intense emotional and physical reactions. PTSD affects millions of Americans, but especially veterans. Those with PTSD may struggle with day-to-day activities, holding a job, and maintaining close relationships.
Other symptoms of PTSD include:
- Angry outbursts
- Difficulty sleeping
- Withdrawal from friends, family, and social activities
- Avoidance of places or things
- Recurring memories, flashbacks, and nightmares
- Engaging in high-risk behaviors
- Sometimes, substance abuse
People with PTSD can recover within the first one to two years after their trauma exposure. However, about 20% to 30% of people may develop long-term, debilitating issues. This can depend on the type of traumatic incident and the degree of exposure.
How to Help Those Veterans Struggling on Memorial Day
If a friend or family member is a veteran who may be triggered by the holiday, be sure to validate and empathize with his or her feelings. Here are more ways you can help:
1. Build Social Support
Simply being there during your friend’s or family member’s time of need can be a great help. Perhaps invite him or her over for a meal, or just spend some quality time with each other. You can also ask the vets in your life how you might honor fallen men and women together. This might include volunteering in your community or simply placing flags or flowers on gravesites. Similarly, you can visit a military memorial, museum, or monument to pay your respects. If you take action together, you could help the veteran reintegrate into society and feel less lonely.
2. Encourage Treatment
If you’re worried about your loved one, encourage him or her to seek treatment. Treatments might include medications, such as anti-anxiety drugs or antidepressants. Counseling may also help. This can either be one-on-one or through group therapy. PTSD therapy could help improve symptoms, teach healthy coping skills, and restore self-esteem.
3. Suggest Meditation and Mindful Practices
Practicing the art of mindfulness could also be beneficial for struggling veterans. Mindfulness is about being present, which can help people who may be reliving their past or are overly worried about their future. It creates a space where one is less reactive to one’s thoughts, which can help relieve anxiety and negative feelings.
One way to practice mindfulness is by connecting with the breath, which helps bring us into the present moment. Encourage your loved one to try breathing techniques by following the movement of each breath as it draws in and out. Have your friend or family member notice the environment, such as the temperature of the room and any sounds. This can help rest the mind in the present moment.
Other holistic therapies may also be beneficial, such as guided meditation. For example, practicing a guided meditation for five to 10 minutes can help refocus the mind and attention. There are many apps available that offer guided meditations.
4. Create a Sense of Safety
Stability is incredibly important for veterans. One way you can help create stability in your loved one’s life is to be a consistent and steady presence. Respect his or her privacy and treat the information that your loved one shares with you as confidential. This may also help veterans open up and reach out for support.
While Memorial Day may serve as a grim reminder of tragic events for veterans, you can help them through this tough time and recover from distressing memories. To learn more about understanding PTSD for veterans, see the accompanying resource.
This infographic was created by Veteran Car Donations
If you or someone you know experiences mental health issues, it is important to seek help from a qualified professional. Our Resource Specialist can help you find expert mental health resources to recover in your community. Contact us now for more information on this free service to our users.
About the Author: Veteran Car Donations is a national organization that accepts vehicle donations to better the lives of veterans. The organization partners with a number of well-known veteran charities to help provide essential medical care, mental health services, and more.
Mental Health Month 2021
Access for All
May is Mental Health Month, a time to spread public awareness and education about mental health disorders and reflect on the impact of mental illness on individuals and their families.
It is also a time to recognize and commit to changing the racial and economic inequities in our health care system, particularly with respect to mental health.
www.rtor.org and Laurel House are committed to the advancement of racial equity and social justice, and to making mental health services accessible to all.
The opinions and views expressed in any guest blog post do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in the article or linked to therein. Guest Authors may have affiliations to products mentioned or linked to in their author bios only.
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