ASKING FOR HELP IS STRENGTH NOT WEAKNESS
Our Traumatic Stress Recovery Programs (TSRP) addresses the mental health and cognitive needs of warriors returning from war. TSRP provides military rehabilitation services at key stages during a warrior's readjustment process. While post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and combat/operational stress are common after wartime experiences, Wounded Warrior Anglers of America, Inc.® (WWAA) approaches these issues from the warrior's perspective. We understand the stigma attached to mental health, access to care, and interpersonal relationship challenges.
Our approach to meeting mental health veteran’s services is two-fold:
- We challenge warriors to think about goal setting and understanding their "new normal." Many warriors begin their journey with our Warrior, Caregiver, & Family Retreat Program, a rehabilitative retreat that promotes peer & family connection, and healing with other veterans.
- We assist warriors in navigating mental health resources that help process their Traumatic Stress experience. Warrior Rod Building is a hands tool that teaches warriors how to cope with the invisible wounds of war such as traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and PTSD.
UNDERSTANDING THE EFFECTS OF OPERATIONAL STRESS AND TRAUMA
Deployments change service members and their families. Some of the changes are positive. For example, personal and professional growth due to the ability to face intense challenges and adversities competently. Operational experiences can also be traumatic and produce lasting emotional wounds. Examples of traumatic deployment experiences are:
- Threat to life
- The loss of life of friends and others
- Seeing the wounded and the dying.
Exposure to traumatic operational experiences affects service members and veterans spiritually, psychologically, biologically, and socially. A veteran with a good job, good social supports, and a healthy leisure routine may have an easier readjustment to civilian life. If your scars are getting in the way of your relationships, work, or other important activities, or if things are getting worse rather than better, it is important that you take steps to get the help you need.
DO ANY OF THE POINTS LISTED APPLY TO YOUR SITUATION?
Common Reactions to Operational Stress and Trauma
Exposure to operational stress affects service members in many ways. While some of these effects can be positive, many service members experience lasting emotional scars. Being deeply impacted by what you did and what you saw is to be expected. For some, the psychological and emotional wounds run deep and make it hard to move on and function effectively in various roles (e.g., parent, co-worker, partner, and friend).
Here are four important things to know:
- You are not alone.
- This is not about weakness.
- You deserve to heal and recover from the invisible, psychological wounds of war as much as you would deserve the best care for the physical wounds of war.
- Help is available.
Staying informed and learning ways to manage and cope with what you're experiencing are key in the readjustment process. Some common reactions to combat and operation stress and trauma are listed below. Keep in mind that these post-traumatic reactions can present themselves at varying times and to varying degrees from individual to individual. If your reactions interfere with your life, do not improve, or worsen over time, please take the steps to get the help you need and deserve.
Reactions to combat and operational stress and trauma may include:
- Problems concentrating or making decisions
- Having disturbing dreams and memories or flashbacks
- Feeling hopeless about the future
- Feeling numb or lacking interest in anything
- Having a negative view of the world or other people
- Guilt and shame
- Avoiding people, places, and things related to stressful operational experiences
- Feeling on guard, constantly alert, or jumpy
- Being irritable or having outbursts of anger
- Having trouble sleeping
- Feeling detached or withdrawn from others
Mental Health Problems Associated with Operational Stress and Trauma
Exposure to combat and operational stress can leave emotional scars that linger after deployment. While every individual reacts differently, some problems service members and veterans may notice after combat or operational stress are listed below. If you feel you might be dealing with one or more of these problems.
- Anger or Aggressive Behavior:
Although anger is a natural and healthy emotion that may have helped you do your job while deployed, intense anger can scare people and push them away. Aggressive, hurtful behavior can also cause problems with family, friends, co-workers, and the legal system.
- Alcohol/Drug Abuse:
While using alcohol or drugs to numb yourself ("self-medicating") might seem to work in the moment, it can prevent you from helping yourself and leave you vulnerable to more problems (psychological, medical, legal) in the long run.
Depression involves feeling down or sad more days than not. It is different from normal feelings of sadness, grief, or low energy. You may feel hopeless, guilty, or worthless, and you might think about hurting or killing yourself.
- Suicidal Thoughts
If you or someone you know is feeling suicidal, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Veterans should press "1" after being connected to reach the Veterans Hotline. You can also visit National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, or call a counselor, doctor, or 911. Help is available.
- Moral Injury
A moral injury is a lasting and powerful psychological wound that is caused by doing, failing to prevent, or observing acts that go against deeply held moral beliefs and expectations. Veterans who experience moral injury may experience a reluctance to get close to other people, difficulty trusting others or themselves, and a loss of faith or spirituality.
- Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Traumatic deployment experiences, such as threat to life, the loss of others, and seeing the wounded and the dying, can leave lasting emotional scars. PTSD in war veterans is a common condition that can develop after you have gone through such experiences. If you have PTSD, you may find yourself reliving deployment events over and over again in the form of unwanted memories or nightmares. You may try to avoid situations or experiences that trigger these memories or otherwise remind you of the traumatic event. You may also feel numb, have difficulty communicating with other people, and even have trouble feeling loving feelings toward others. You may also find that you feel "on high alert" and irritable all the time, making it hard to relax, sleep, or concentrate.
Is Mental Health Treatment for Me?
In the past 20 years, there have been many scientific studies testing whether medications and psychotherapies help people with mental health problems. The jury is in: THEY DO HELP!
If you are experiencing difficulties related to deployment or operational stress, you CAN feel better. Therapists work with individuals, couples, families, and groups to help them overcome a wide range of psychological and emotional difficulties. The therapist may not have military experience, but should make you feel safe, comfortable, and listened to.
The patient or client (you) is an active participant in this process. Therapist and patient work together to generate a road map for how your psychotherapy will go. Psychotherapy is a non-medical treatment. However, medication can be used with psychotherapy and would be prescribed by a psychiatrist (MD) or a nurse with prescribing privileges such as a clinical nurse specialist or advanced practice nurse.