As the nation honors the men and women who have served in the armed forces, it’s appropriate to recognize the special health challenges many veterans face.
According to the Veterans Administration, military personnel who have been on missions that exposed them to horrible and life-threatening experiences may now experience PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder.
The VA estimates that between 11-20% of veterans who served in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom have PTSD in a given year. About 12% of Gulf War veterans have PTSD, and about 15% of Vietnam veterans were diagnosed with PTSD at the time of the most recent study in the late 1980s. But it is estimated that about 30% of Vietnam veterans have had PTSD in their lifetime.
Another cause of PTSD in the military can be military sexual trauma, according to the VA. This is any sexual harassment or sexual assault that occurs while a male or female is in the military, during peacetime, training, or war.
About 23% of women reported sexual assault when in the military, and 55% experienced sexual harassment. Thirty-eight percent of men in the military experienced sexual harassment.
The VA notes that there are many more male veterans than there are female veterans, so even though military sexual trauma is more common in women veterans, more than half of all veterans with military sexual trauma are men.
Also according to the VA’s latest available data (2017), approximately 17 veterans per day commit suicide. That shocking number is for veterans defined as “a person who had been activated for federal military service and was not currently serving at the time of death.”
Last week, in recognition of all of the challenges facing returning veterans, the Massachusetts House of Representatives passed a bill establishing a training program for college and university counselors who work with students who are veterans. The training, which would be developed by the University of Massachusetts Medical School, aims to ensure higher education institutions have resources available for students struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, substance use, depression, or other issues stemming from military service.