Terry McLaughlin: Welcome Home Vets is there for you | TheUnion.com

Terry McLaughlin: Welcome Home Vets is there for you

Terry McLaughlin

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is defined as an emotional illness classified as an anxiety disorder, usually developing as a result of an extremely frightening, life-threatening, or otherwise highly unsafe experience.

PTSD statistics relating to our country’s veterans are a moving target that can seem fuzzy at best.

Does a data collector look only at PTSD diagnosed within one year of return from battle? Do they count only PTSD that limits a soldier’s ability to return to battle or remain employed? Do they recognize PTSD that may have destroyed a marriage or wrecked a family? Do they look at PTSD statistics for issues that may have come up later in a person’s life? How can they account for those who have had undiagnosed PTSD for 30 years and not realized it? When asking the question “what percentage of the veteran population suffers from PTSD,” are they evaluating combat veterans, veterans who served in non-combat positions, or all military personnel for the duration of a war?

In times of peace, in any given year, about 3.6% of the general population will suffer from PTSD caused by natural disasters, car accidents, abuse, and other incidents. Compare this to Veterans’ PTSD statistics. The findings from a National Vietnam Veterans’ Readjustment Study commissioned by the government in the 1980s initially found that for “Vietnam theater veterans” 15% had PTSD at the time of the study and 30% had PTSD at some point in their life. But a re-analysis in 2003 found that “contrary to the initial analysis of that study’s data, a large majority of Vietnam Veterans struggled with chronic PTSD symptoms, with four out of five reporting recent symptoms when interviewed 20-25 years after Vietnam.”

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Do the math — that’s 540,000 Veterans who had been diagnosed at the time of that study, and that number does not include those who have remained undiagnosed.

A major study done by the RAND Corporation, based upon informational studies from the Congressional Research Service, the Veterans Administration, the Institute of Medicine, and the U.S. Surgeon General, also revealed some startling statistics. As of September 2014, there were about 2.7 million American veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. According to RAND, at least 20% of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have PTSD and/or depression. Do the math — that’s 540,000 Veterans who had been diagnosed at the time of that study, and that number does not include those who have remained undiagnosed. The study also noted that “PTSD is the third most prevalent psychiatric diagnosis among Veterans using the Veterans Affairs hospitals.”

The RAND study also indicated that nationally “50% of those with PTSD do not seek treatment. Out of the half that seek treatment, only half of them get minimally adequate treatment. 19% of veterans may have traumatic brain injury. 7% of veterans have both post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.”

Closer to home, there are approximately 8,330 veterans in our rural community. A significant percentage of them experienced trauma during their service and still carry the scars, both visible and invisible. In recognition of this serious issue, Welcome Home Vets, a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation run entirely by volunteers, was founded in 2010 to help those in our community to cope with problems resulting from military-related psychological trauma. These services are provided to the veterans and their family members at no cost, as Welcome Home Vets believes that they have “already paid the price”.

Welcome Home Vets’ mission statement is to “provide psychological services, education, referral and advocacy for veterans, active duty military members, and their families whose needs are not met by existing services, and to do so at no cost to them. We will provide education for the community on military-related psychological trauma.”

This organization makes the connections between those in need and the professionals who can provide the support and help required, by providing referrals and funds to compensate local therapists who specialize in working with veterans and their families. For some veterans one-on-one therapy addresses their immediate needs. For others, it may be group therapy with veterans who have “been there” and can speak through experience. The family, individual, and group sessions support the children, spouses and parents of veterans as well.

The Veterans Administration reports that up to 22 veterans commit suicide every day, while incarceration, homelessness, substance abuse, divorce and unemployment are disproportionately higher for veterans with PTSD. Unlike dealing with the bureaucracy of the Veterans Administration, Welcome Home Vets provides local, timely, and consistent treatment and resources.

Since their inception in 2010, Welcome Home Vets has helped over 200 local veterans and their family members, but they want to reach more — and younger — veterans at risk. Their goal is to support at least 100 veterans and 50 new family members this year.

If you are a veteran and recognize yourself in the words of this column, there is no reason for you or your family members to silently suffer any longer. Reach out to Welcome Home Vets who will provide understanding, a listening ear, referrals for the appropriate assistance, and funds to provide for that care. Visit their website at http://www.WelcomeHomeVets.org for more information, or contact Doug Becker at 530-272-3300 or email info@WelcomeHomeVets.org. Their office is located inside the Grass Valley Veteran’s Memorial Building at 255 S. Auburn St. in Grass Valley.

Welcome Home Vets is there for you, ready to provide the education, resources and services needed to help you find greater peace, comfort, and happiness in your life.

Terry McLaughlin, who lives in Grass Valley, writes a twice monthly column for The Union. Write to her at terrymclaughlin2016@gmail.com.

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