Voices Blog

Veterans, PTSD and Substance Abuse

Memorial Day is a good time to assess the condition of our returning military veterans, a group which is fraught with alarmingly high rates of PTSD, addiction and suicide. The rate of suicide among veterans is alarmingly higher than is found in the civilian population, and substance misuse is often involved in these tragedies. An underlying issue is PTSD, which is significantly higher among veterans than in the general population. Dr. Tom Horvath and Len Van Nostrand highlight the connection between PTSD and addiction and the critical role of treatment in healing our veterans….Dr. Richard Juman As the month of May brings Armed Forces Day and Memorial Day, post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, becomes a natural topic of discussion. Within this important conversation is the intricate relationship between PTSD and substance use. Our greatest understandings of traumatic stress and post-traumatic stress often come from those who’ve experienced the horrors and devastation of war, which can last long after combat ends. For many veterans, the impacts of war remain as if it were yesterday. Heartbreakingly, their mind continues to be a battlefield of devastating, torturous memories and they are tasked with the challenge of coping with PTSD. Casualties of War: The Somatic, Neurological and Psychological Systems Traumatic stress impacts all of our systems, including the somatic, neurological and psychological systems. When we have painful thoughts and memories, we activate the various chemical and messenger systems of the body and experience distress, tension, anxiety and depression, resulting in ongoing deregulated emotions. Despite repeated efforts to avoid the painful memories and associated emotions, our minds and bodies remember. For reasons we may be... read more

What is needed and why are we relevant?

After my son Danny’s second tour in Afghanistan and his separation from the Army with 10th Mountain Division, we very quickly came to the realization that he had been severely underprepared for his transition from military life. We invested a great deal of time, energy and frustration with the fact that a process or a program should have been provided during pre-separation that would have prepared him for what he would experience. We began to envision forming an organization to address this problem and to put what we had learned from our own experiences into action for others. It was 2004 and there were an estimated 3,500 Veteran related non-profit organizations across the nation. At the time this seemed like a very large number. Fast forward to 2015, there are now over 45,000. We began by asking ourselves a question that has continued to guide me to this day, “What is needed and why are we relevant?” What is Needed? First, what is not needed. In my opinion, not another well intending Veteran services organization replicating what hundreds of similar groups are doing. Not another redundant small non-profit competing for donors and attention in a very confusing landscape of choices. A landscape of players and organization that has become so confusing and so vast it is often referred to as a “Sea of goodwill”. With Veterans dying from suicide at a rate of 18-22 per day, we need to get ahead of this problem as fast as possible. Prevention and early intervention, before Veterans spiral out of control seems to make the most common sense. Don’t compete, collaborate. What is... read more

Welcome to Purple Star Veterans

It is my pleasure to welcome you to our new Purple Star Veterans site…   Here, you will find personal development tools designed to help you along the path of transition, whether you are facing a return from a combat deployment or the conclusion of your military career and return to civilian life. These include the Transition Map and Action Plan that can assist you in discovering where you are, where you want to be, and how you can get there. Currently, our Veteran Lifeline area is set up to allow you to create connections to those you trust the most as you embark upon your journey so that you can share information with your support network in safety and privacy. Veteran Lifelines encompass a great method to negotiate the ways in which you’d like to be helped, to keep those you care about and who care about you in the loop, and to be a place of support whenever you need it. Additionally, we are hard at work at implementing several new program areas that will be available in the future; to include dedicated Peer Advisors to assist you with our tools and in finding meaningful resources, plus a robust private online community. Also in development is our Purple Star Families site, which will host content such as resources to include those relevant to grief and loss, tools, and a blog section. Finally, in the future we will have the capacity to offer stipends for personal development and wellness trainings as well as access to mental health consulting for those in need. Thank you for visiting our site,... read more

Suicide Prevention Resources

Prevention Resources Vets Prevail– Build. Engage. Prevail. www.vetsprevail.com National Suicide Prevention Lifeline– Call them at 1-800-273-TALK(8255) http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ National Suicide Prevention Resource Center – Support, guidance, and resources http://www.sprc.org/ Veterans Crisis Line – call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1 or send a text message to 838255 http://www.veteranscrisisline.net/ VETCenter – Nationwide Network of Support Centers http://www.vetcenter.va.gov/index.asp AfterDeployment.org http://www.afterdeployment.org/ National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder The National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder www.ncptsd.org and the National Military Families Association www.nmfa.org dedicated to active duty military families and many other national organizations now link and send thousands of visitors a month to the Veterans and Families Foundation website. Wounded Warrior Project – An organization dedicated to the well being and adjustment of wounded warriors in America http://www.woundedwarriorproject.org/ Make the Connection – Shared Experiences and Support for Veterans http://maketheconnection.net/ Video Resources VA Suicide Prevention with Gary Sinise – Video USMC Suicide Prevention with Gary Sinise – Video Suicide Prevention PSA for Military Families –... read more

Veteran Suicides Each Year Eclipses Total OEF/OIF U.S. Military Killed in Action Since 9/11

Wake Up, America We are about to cross a catastrophic milestone in our nation’s history… and nobody knows it. The latest U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) report from the DEFENSE CASUALTY ANALYSIS SYSTEM puts the number of U.S. military killed in action (KIA) while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan at 6,567 as of December 14, 2012. Unfortunately, the vast majority of Americans are not correlating the lives lost in The War On Terror with the catastrophic loss of life occurring when warriors come home. In the United States, every 80 minutes a U.S. Military Veteran who actually made it home alive from Afghanistan and Iraq dies from suicide. That’s 18 per day, 6,570 per year. Skeptical of this statistic? Here’s a Policy Brief titled: Losing the Battle, The Challenge of Military Suicide from the  Center for a New American Security. If this trend continues there will be more Post 911 Veteran Suicides on the near horizon than are names on the Vietnam Wall (58,261), do the math. Herein lies a big “Catch 22” that is a part of the homecoming dilemma Veterans and their families are faced with. Problem: The Preparedness and Decompression Dilemma   When service members leave the military and become veterans they are no longer employees under the care of the Department of Defense. Upon separation from military service, all health care and mental health services transfer from the DOD to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). DOD out-processing ends and the VA in-processing begins. Unfortunately, by the time Veterans who need help the most arrive home, for many, an opportunity to most effectively help them... read more

A Suicide Prevention Solution Hiding in Plain Sight

If you were duck hunting, when do you load your guns…When you see the ducks? Of course not. By the time Homecoming Veterans who need the help the most end up on the doorsteps of their families, for many, it’s already too late. The solution: Help Veterans before they become Veterans. Help them better prepare for homecoming during the critical months prior to separation from military service and during the dangerous months after they arrive home. The Decompression Dilemma The entire military and VA heath systems are operating with a major disconnect for Veterans and their families. A “Catch 22″ exists for Veterans who are suffering the most from PTSD and other Combat related mental health issues. It is a major contributing factor to not only Veteran suicide but it explains some of the underlying reason why Veterans and their families are spiraling out of control and falling between the cracks of our society. The “Catch 22″: Warriors are trained to accomplish their mission or to die trying. Adapt, improvise and overcome is the ethos that is galvanized into their being. This Spartan code has been trained into young men and women of every nation since before Homer wrote the Iliad. Remember the old saying? “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” Here’s the problem with this “when the going gets tough” mentality. Warriors who need help the most are unwilling or incapable of asking for it. The catch 22, All VA mental health services are voluntary and the only way to get help after separating from the military is to ask for it. Even worse, there... read more

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