Today, PTSD is better understood and treated than it has ever been. Why, then, is suicide so much more prevalent in young men and women who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan when compared with the general population?
As a medical professional and a person who has experienced the effects of TBI through personal injury, it is impossible for me to sit idly by when so many of our returning heroes return with injuries which forever change the very ways they think and process information.
As Americans, we have a duty to provide our nation's heroes with the care and resources they need. Health care reform provides an historic opportunity to find new, collaborative approaches that could better serve them.
The Institute of Medicine/National Academy of Sciences issued "Treatment for PTSD in Military and Veteran Populations (Initial Assessment)" after reviewing Department of Defense and VA data on prevention, screening, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of PTSD.
As individuals and community members, we all have an important role in helping our veterans to feel more connected to their communities, their families, their work and play, in ways that bring some sense of worth and meaning to their lives.
The vast majority of these are worthy and noble endeavors, showing veterans their service is appreciated. And yet, far too many veterans struggle with the transition to civilian life. With all these organizations offering help, how can this be?
It seems to me that there's a lesson here for those who are trying to help veterans who have returned home with mental disorders. Formal treatment can be very helpful and more veterans need to get access to it, but laughter can also be a great healer.
For the last decade, we've seen tens of thousand of soldiers return home with injuries, many of whom had serious brain or spinal damage. But these numbers only account for the wounds we can see -- and it's the damage outside our field of vision that's sometimes the most lethal.
PTSD, domestic violence and alcohol abuse are problems that have been widely chronicled among returning veterans of our recent wars. Often left out of the discussion, however, is the terrible toll that prescription medications -- namely, opioid painkillers -- take on veterans' lives.
We civilians need to do a better job understanding and supporting our service members who have given all to protect our country. We can shift our thinking from problematic to positive when we think about hiring, counseling or dealing with our service members.
Let's remember that the effects of their service do not end once they are no longer actively in the military. Veterans continue to give us significant parts of their lives, even years after their duty is over.
The single best way for national leaders to genuinely honor the sacrifices of veterans and their families on November 11, 2012 is to step up and end the cycle of mental health crises that have plagued American society since 1919.
We're all given the gift of awareness. Mindfulness is cultivating this potential of ours. It develops our ability and our willingness to experience directly what's going on within and around us: the good, the bad, the ugly, and everything in between.