Yesterday, I talked about how scars can prevent those of us who battle the darkness of mental illness from getting the help we need. Today, I want to expand on that by talking about a very real example of that: post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.
Earlier this year, the Philidelphia Inquirer ran a story about Corey Michael Hadley, an Army infantryman and sharpshooter, who after three tours in the middle east returned home in 2013. And earlier this year, he died by suicide.
His tragedy is not unique. According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, suicide among vets is on the rise. In 2017 there were over 6,000 vets who died by suicide. That is a tragedy I cannot put into words. Nor should I have to. More needs to be done for those who have gone off to war and come home with scars only they can see and feel.
And PTSD is absolutely not limited to soldiers. Anyone can suffer PTSD. It can happen after an assault, an accident, it can happen to the victims of domestic violence or middle-aged professionals who have never been to war. Too often the response that those PTSD sufferers hear is, “but how can you have PTSD, you never went to war.” And that is the wrong response.
It is all tragic, which brings me to how we can help, both individually and as a society. Individually we can stop assuming that PTSD is only an illness of war because it isn’t. We can show compassion when someone opens up about this type of battle. And collectively, as a society, we can implement transition programs to help vets return to civilian life and decrease barriers to mental health care across the board. And maybe, together, we can help ensure that individuals like Corey get the help they need.