PTSD Awareness Month

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder triggered by exposure to a traumatic experience such as an interpersonal event like physical or sexual assault, exposure to disaster or accidents, combat or witnessing a traumatic event. This month is PTSD Awareness Month, and the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs are raising awareness about the problem, along with providing tools, information and assistance for service members who may be dealing with PTSD.  The National Center for PTSD is full of resources and information for anyone who wants or needs help. 

More than 300,000 veterans who deployed from 2001 to 2008 had PTSD or major depression, and a partially overlapping 320,000 suffered a probable TBI event, according to a report by the RAND Corporation that was released in 2008. The report also stated that only about half of veterans in need of care seek it. 

Additionally, after combat duty in Iraq or Afghanistan, members of the National Guard appear to have higher rates of mental health problems than those in the Active Component, according to a 2010 study by the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research published in the Archives of General Psychiatry. 

"The emergence of differences ... likely does not have to do with the differences in the health effects of combat, but rather with other variables related to readjustment to civilian life or access to health care," they wrote. 

Last year, NGAUS successfully lobbied to get a provision included in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 that requires the Secretary of Defense using Operations and Maintenance (O&M) accounts to provide members of the reserve components during drills and assemblies with access to behavioral health programs which may include access to mental health providers and mental assessments from licensed mental health providers.The program offers a stigma free and convenient access to mental health care professionals at unit armories during duty hours with full confidentiality observed. It also provides the resource for needed behavioral health support training at the unit level.

This is a significant step in reaching our Guard men and women, and NGAUS has lobbied this year for an appropriation of $5 million allocated from the Department of Defense (DoD) mental health programs for designated funding for the National Guard embedded mental health initiative that would safely and effectively be available to supplement the funding for the embedded programs for at 11 risk states ($20M would fund all 54 states, territories and D.C.). Five million is but a fraction of the billions that DoD will reportedly receive for family and mental health programs for the 2013 appropriation.

Our members deserve access to the best treatment available after they've given so much. We hope that during this month, we all help raise awareness that there are people out there just like them who are going through similar experiences, overcoming challenges, reaching positive outcomes for treatment and recovery, and finding paths to fulfilling lives. 

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