PTSD in Children

We know that it’s not necessary to be enlisted in the military and travel overseas to experience post traumatic stress disorder. In the United States, specifically inner city areas, children and teenagers are developing PTSD from trauma they experience or witness on the streets and in their own homes. PTSD in children is very common. Kids suffer from traumas that include but are not limited to physical and sexual assault, natural disasters, school shootings, and car crashes.

But even when these children experience traumatic events in their youth, there is still hope for healing and recovery. One way to assist these kids recover from a traumatic experience is through America’s real-life superheroes: United States veterans.

Find out how US combat vets are helping inner-city youth who struggle with PTSD.

Helping PTSD in Children and US Veterans Help Kids with PTSDVets with PTSD 

In 2015, a man named Eddie Bocanegra was released from prison after being sentenced for gang violence. With the help of his brother, an Army veteran, Eddie realized the similarities between what soldiers experienced in war and what children and teens experience in gang life. Both soldiers and gang members suffered from PTSD.

With this newfound perspective, Eddie founded the organization Urban Warriors, and called on Chicago’s combat veterans to help support the thousands of children currently experiencing a myriad of traumas.

According to NPR storywriter Audie Cornish, 3,000 people were shot in Chicago in 2015 with as many as 151 shootings concentrated in a single neighborhood. Based out of the YMCA of Metro Chicago’s Youth Safety and Violence Prevention Initiative, Urban Warriors was set up to help any and all children affected by this violence.

Many others like Eddie Bocanegra are realizing that gang life has several similarities to a war zone. In generalized terms, soldiers carry guns, have ranks, and sometimes have to kill people; it’s the same life that many inner-city kids are living at such young ages. Additionally, these kids know what it means to fear for their safety and even their lives. They’ve seen loved ones and comrades die in front of them, just like many veterans have.

The Urban Warriors curriculum includes 16 weeks of therapy centered primarily on discussion. In almost any therapeutic program dealing with PTSD, the path to healing is the same: talking. Victims are encouraged, but never forced, to talk about what they feel, what they saw, and their fears for the future.

There are five terms that Urban Warriors holds up as curriculum objectives: belonging, positive identity development, cognitive restructuring, coping, and community engagement.

Over the 16 designated weeks, kids talk about the traumatic events they’ve experienced, and the combat veterans talk about theirs. The veterans at Urban Warriors are trained to help young people understand and process their feelings. Empathy and shared experiences are the tools they use to give the nightmare a name and a face: if children understand what PTSD is, they are better equipped to handle it in themselves.

The veterans also work to dispel stigmas and help kids understand that their reactions to trauma are normal, human, and okay.

After they complete their time at Urban Warriors, children and veterans alike can choose to continue their journey of healing by participating in Story Squad. In this program, children and veterans can make audio recordings of their personal experiences with violence. Story Squad then shares these stories with the community and the world through the internet. The thinking behind Story Squad is similar to that of Urban Warriors: talking and sharing is cathartic for PTSD victims of any age.

The Urban Warriors Story Album is available for streaming on SoundCloud and can be accessed here: https://soundcloud.com/ysvp/sets/urban-warriors-story-album

PTSD in Children Statistics and Symptoms

Combat Veterans and Teens with PTSDAccording to the VA, more than 30 percent of children ages 10 – 16 have been sexually or physically assaulted. Every year, 5.5 million children are intercepted by child protective services. A third of these interceptions are due to abuse. 60 percent of this abuse is neglect, 18 percent is physical, 10 percent is sexual, and 7 percent is psychological.

3 – 10 million children a year witness family violence, and around half these instances involve some form of child abuse. Note that only a third of child abuse cases are even reported. Among children, as many as 43 percent of girls and 43 percent of boys can experience a type of trauma. Of these, almost 15 percent of girls and 6 percent of boys are diagnosed with PTSD.

Whether or not a child develops PTSD has to do with the severity of the trauma they experience, their proximity to the trauma, and the reaction of their parents. Kids with PTSD desperately need responsive, caring parents as they express symptomatic behavior; those with supportive and patient parents heal faster and more completely than those without.

As we see from the statistics, girls are more likely than boys to get PTSD.

Children ages 5-12 will deal with their trauma by reenacting it at playtime. They don’t have flashbacks like adults, but they become increasingly hyperaware of the future, looking for telltale signs of the next trauma and trying to plan out how they can avoid it. Teens ages 12-18 are the ones most likely to express their PTSD through impulsive or aggressive behavior.

Common emotional changes in children with PTSD include increased fear, worry, sadness, and low self-worth. Particularly when it comes to sexual abuse, child victims are more prone to self-harm and drug and alcohol abuse.

PTSD Treatment for Kids Is Similar to Treatment for Vets

Around the world, huge advancements are being made eliminating stigmas and recognizing PTSD as a serious disability. Some school districts use psychological first aid (PFA) to help afflicted kids function and remain in school. Many therapists are using Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) to help children, as they do with adults. Like was mentioned earlier, communication and self-expression appear to be key in overcoming the crippling effects of trauma, regardless of age.

Many children and adults fighting PTSD need to be reassured that the world is not a wholly unsafe place. Therapy and education dispel false notions about trauma and false notions about the world as a result. Children and veterans are taught how to remain calm when bombarded with bad memories.

Parents of traumatized children play an especially important role in the recovery process. Generally, all PTSD recovery programs are designed to also help loved ones and immediate family in addition to the victims.

Often, many combat veterans return home to their families only to alienate and even harm them due to unchecked mental illness. Similarly, parents who don’t understand or respond well to their child’s trauma can make the situation worse. This is why many programs are eager to educate parents on their children’s changing behavior and what it means. This understanding allows parents to gauge their child’s mental state and help them heal.

About Low VA Rates

We at Low VA Rates make home and family our business. Our mission is to provide a good life for veterans, knowing full well that many have seen or experienced terrible things. We work to understand the struggles you face, and we are here to help you, whether through affordable housing, events and fundraisers, or raising awareness of these issues on our blog.

We hope everyone will be aware of PTSD and its causes and effects in their community and abroad. May we all reach out to those still fighting the invisible war.

VA Rehabilitation Services

Substance Abuse Rehabilitation Programs Offered by the VAVeteran Affairs Rehabilitation

Like much of their medical care, VA mental health care is tailored to military culture and equipped with professionals specifically devoted to the emotional well-being of veterans. Listed in this article are just a few of the drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs available to veterans through the VA. Many of these organizations and programs are going to guarantee the following services:

  • First-time screening for alcohol or tobacco use in all VA care locations
  • Short outpatient counseling
  • Intensive outpatient treatment
  • Residential (line-in) care
  • Medical detoxification
  • Continuing care and relapse prevention
  • Marriage and family counseling
  • Self-help groups
  • Drug substitution therapies
  • Cutting-edge medication to subdue cravings

Confidential Online Screening

The VA provides a confidential online assessment for those who think they have a substance addiction. The screening is provided by the VA through MyHealth.

Veterans Alcohol and Drug Rehabilitation Program

This program is offered by the VA through the Veterans Health Administration. Available to alcohol and drug dependent veterans, it provides all sorts of rehabilitation like detoxification and psychiatric care. To participate in this program, you’ll need to be enrolled in VA Health Care.

Mental Health Care Handbook

To navigate the many rehabilitation and self-help resources available, the VA published The Guide to VA Mental Health Services for Veterans and Families. This handbook helps veterans and their families identify and locate mental health programs that fit their needs. It lists several VA mental health care providers who coordinate with each other to provide the best service possible.

VA-Recommended Self-Help Resources

The VA recommends certain self-help books and websites for help with substance abuse. These include:

 

  • Rethinking Drinking: Alcohol and Your Health

 

    • DrugScreening.org
    • Stay Quit Coach (app)
    • SMART Recovery: Self-Management and Recovery Training

 

  • Beyond Addiction: How Science and Kindness Help People Change.

The VA’s OEND Program

Seeing the effects of opioid abuse in veterans, the VA developed a preventative OEND (Opioid Overdose Education and Naloxone Distribution) program. In this program, veterans are trained to help one another by recognizing and responding to an opioid overdose with the proper use of naloxone.

MakeTheConnection.net

MakeTheConnection.net is an online resource where veterans who have recovered from addictions share their stories to inspire others. The site provides video testimonials of various types of therapy and their effectiveness. It also has information about non-VA health care providers and what they offer.

1-855-QUIT-VET

Veterans enrolled in VA Health Care and struggling with nicotine addiction can call the smoking quitline at 1-855-QUITE-VET. The line is operational Monday through Friday and closed on federal holidays. Those who call can speak with a Quit VET counselor who will customize a quit plan suited to their needs. Quit VET counselors help veterans learn to formulate a plan for quitting and take preventative measures against relapse. Counselors also consistently follow up to make sure motivation and morale is high.

Veterans can also text VET to 47848 to begin participating in SmokefreeVET. This text messaging program provides daily encouragement, reminders, and pointers for veterans who are trying to quit smoking.

VA Rehabilitation Methodology

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Substance Use Disorders (CBT-SUD) is widely used by VA mental health Rehab and Other VA Services for Vetsprofessionals in addition to Motivational Interviewing (MI) and Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET).

CBT-SUD is a psychotherapy that helps people become aware of their own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Self-awareness has proved vital to full recovery from substance abuse. With it, people can identify patterns in their thoughts and make preventative mental changes as a result.

MI and MET are both concerned with eliminating ambivalence and increasing a person’s motivation to change. Counselors who practice MI or MET will encourage veterans to talk openly about their substance abuse and eventually narrow the conversation to focus on thoughts or feelings that need changing. Counselors help their clients realize how important change really is. After motivation is realized, it’s kept alive by realistic goals and careful planning.

A Better Life for Veterans

Substance abusers can attest to the misery of living life as a slave to addiction. There are many different challenges of life that, if left unaided, can enslave a person. Financial uncertainty is one of these. Talk to one of our certified loan officers today to learn how we can help provide future financial certainty for you and your family.

How Dogs Can Help Combat Vets with PTSD

Man’s Best Friend Could Save Your Life

It’s been said that a dog is man’s best friend. But what if dogs could also be the key to a soldier’s mental health after serving our country during combat? There hasn’t been a lot of research or hard evidence about the effects of emotional support dogs on veterans with PTSD, but with the increasing number of success stories, that is changing. Although the companionship of emotional support dogs should not be used in place of professional care, they can be an immense help in addition to a veteran’s medicines, therapies, and/or treatments. Find out how dogs are helping combat veterans who struggle with PTSD. 

This short video clip demonstrates how some emotional support animals can be of help to returning combat vets.

PTSD Explained

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental illness brought on by experiencing horrifying, life-threatening, and dangerous events, like fighting in a war or living through a natural disaster. People with PTSD suffer from sever anxiety, flashbacks that feel intensely real, overwhelming and ever-present thoughts and memories of the events, and nightmares. These fears and anxieties spur behaviors that make it difficult to carry out simple, everyday tasks and experiences. For example, a veteran who experienced torture from a captor may not trust strangers and may be afraid of standing near or talking to people they aren’t familiar with. Or perhaps a veteran was injured in an explosion, which makes him afraid to enter a building unless he knows it’s safe and secure.

Emotional Support Dogs for Veterans

It’s important to know that service dogs and emotional support dogs are two different things. Support dogs are trained to help those who are physically disabled by learning to do things that their handlers can’t, and they are officially certified to be classified as support dogs. Emotional support dogs are not officially certified, and they are trained differently. Emotional support dogs can be trained to stand near their handler while in public, making sure that strangers stay at a safe distance away. Dogs can also be trained to walk through the house or building to assure their owners that the space is safe and secure. But the benefits of having an emotional support dog don’t end there. For veterans that experience bitterness or anger at their experiences, having a dog can help draw out and capitalize on feelings of love and acceptance. They also make good companions for those who fear being left alone. The possibilities for help are endless.

Veteran Organizations that Provide Emotional Support Animals

K9s For Warriors

K9s For Warriors is an organization that specializes in providing emotional support dogs for veterans experiencing PTSD. According to their website, their mission is to “empower them [veterans] to return to civilian life with dignity and independence” with the help of canines. K9s For Warriors trains rescue dogs to pick up on signs from their owners that they are experiencing severe anxiety, flashbacks, or nightmares and then  help calm them down. Each dog is specifically paired with a veteran, and the organization boasts a 100% success rate since their beginning in 2011. They have never had a veteran/dog pair fail, and they have saved many soldiers who have contemplated suicide.

Watch this touching video that expands on a real-life success story from K9s for Warriors.

Patriot PAWS

Patriot PAWS is another organization striving to provide service animals for veterans. While K9s For Warriors deals specifically with veterans with PTSD, Patriot PAWS provides service animals for veterans with physical disabilities as well as mental illnesses. They also work to personally pair service animals and veterans for a successful road to recovery.

If you suffer from PTSD, making a new furry friend could help. It’s important to reiterate, however, that using an emotional support dog should not be used to replace clinical PTSD treatment, but instead should be used in conjunction with that treatment. If you decide to invite a new pet into your family, Low VA Rates wants to make sure you have the right home for your existing family and your new addition. To learn more about how our team of experienced loan officers can help, please visit our website.

Emotional Support Animals/Dogs Help Some Combat Veterans with PTSD

Veterans Transitioning from Active Duty to Civilian Life

Not Forgotten - Veterans Adjusting to Life Back at Home

There have been numerous wars and military conflicts across the years that have drawn our troops away from their families and homes. Often deployed multiple times within their career, these brave soldiers are called to serve in some of the most hostile environments imaginable and then somehow expected to transition from active duty to civilian life with ease – a very tall order, considering the extreme circumstances of combat.

Unfortunately, despite the promise of glory and sufficient health benefits and security for their families, once they arrive home, the life of the average American soldier is anything but secure. A soldier will be the first to say there are many things to be thankful for, but there are also many difficulties faced by veterans working to adjust to civilian life.

Adjusting to Civilian Life Is an Everyday Battle

Sadly, veterans that return home from war are on the underdog’s side of statistics. In total, there are over 2.3 million American veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and according to costsofwar.org, almost 700,000 of them currently have some degree of an officially recognized disability as a result of these wars – and this figure doesn’t even consider “Vietnam Era” veterans that are reportedly worse off.

700,000 Veterans Have an Officially Recognized Disability

While post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD (to be discussed in more detail below), is likely the largest contributor to the disabilities experienced by veterans, there are a number of other habitual issues that plague an American soldier’s assimilation into society in their day-to-day lives.

Many veterans transitioning from a military mentality to a civilian one can:

  • Feel isolated and alone, like no one understands them
  • Feel alienated due to a distinct lack of structure and goals that they were accustomed to in their military life
  • Become increasingly irritated by others that seem more laid-back or less detail-oriented than they’re use to
  • Miss the physical rush of life-threatening situations
  • Worry about their finances

Further, to review some alarming numbers, a recent sample of 600 veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan found that 39% of vets abuse alcohol, 3% abuse drugs (many of which are military prescriptions) and depression was rampant across the board. As an assumptive result, alcohol use associated with physical domestic violence in Army families increased by 54%, child abuse by 40%, and veteran suicide rates are thought to be as high as 5,000 per year, even though one-third of these suicides are by veterans that were never deployed to war zones.

39% of Veterans Abuse Alcohol

Whether it’s marginal issues in the more mundane tasks of the day-to-day or larger, darker demons, each veteran experiences their own battle of adjustment back into society.

The War on PTSD

As referenced above, post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is likely one of the leading deterrents from a vet’s smooth transition back into civilian life. PTSD, also known as shell shock or combat stress, is a disorder that stems from a severe, traumatic event (such as combat) and can later reveal itself under a number of problematic symptoms:

  • Recurring memories of the event(s)
  • Anxiety in crowds and high action settings
  • Apathy/loss of interest/feeling numb
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Feeling emotionally removed from others
  • Anger and irritability

Of course, there are varying degrees of these symptoms, but the disability can be devastating and affects many veterans. The US Department of Veterans Affairs National Center for PTSD estimates that about 7% of civilians will have PTSD at some point in their lives, however, as much as 20% of veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and upwards of 30% of Vietnam veterans have fallen victim to the disorder.

When paired with the fact that 19% of veterans may have suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) while in action, carrying with it its own set of limiting symptoms, these numbers paint a potent recipe of the difficulty of adapting to life after combat.

Veteran Benefits Can Help Ease the Transition

With all of these documented disorders in the wake of military service, life after duty is heavily reliant on a robust benefits package. Veterans may be eligible for an array of benefits, depending on their past military service.

The Department of Veterans Affairs offers a variety of programs that offer medical, financial, and other vital assistance for veterans. For military veterans who have received an honorable or general discharge, there are four primary benefit programs that vets working to adjust can pull support from:

  • Disability Compensation – Veterans who have suffered a service-related disability, injury, or disease can qualify for up to $3,100 in monthly, tax-free compensation benefits.
  • Pension Programs – Wartime veterans who are no longer able to work, have disabilities, and/or have a limited income may qualify for Veterans Pension. Veterans 65 or older may also qualify.
  • Medical Care – The Department of Veterans Affairs is required by law to provide medical services that, by definition, will promote, preserve, and restore health. This give eligible veterans access to VA hospitals for treatment of injury, illness, rehabilitation, alcohol/drug dependence, etc.
  • Educational Programs – Under the GI Bill, a variety of educational programs have been established to help cover the costs associated with further schooling and/or training.

Aside from these four core benefit programs, there are a number of other benefits that each aim to set veterans up for success:

  • Subsidized housing and home loan guarantees
  • Job training and placement
  • Small business loans through the Small Business Administration
  • Counseling and PTSD Support
  • Burials and memorials
  • Franchise opportunities (Vet Fran)

Even with these favorable benefits, according to a recent RAND study, it’s worth noting that only 50% of those with PTSD actually sought treatment, and out of the half that actually pursued treatment, only half of those received “minimally adequate” treatment. However, utilizing their benefits can help veterans working to integrate into civilian life.

Only 50% of Veterans with PTSD Actually Sought Treatment

Veteran Unemployment Rates & Trends

In 2013, the overall unemployment rate in the United States averaged 7.4%, but finished at 6.7% by December. While this was a historically favorable rate for the civilian population, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, during that same period, the unemployment rate for veterans who served on active duty at any time since September 2001 was 9% – more than 2% higher than the civilian population!

Veteran Unemployment Rate is 9.0% Among Veterans Who Have Served Since September 2001

Although this disparity is alarming, that’s not to say that veterans are hopeless when it comes to finding employment upon their homecoming.

On the contrary, the military has a number of job placement programs in place and teaches a variety of skills that translate wonderfully into the modern workforce. According to a study performed by PayScale.com, the following is a list of the top skills taught to military members and the 15 most common jobs landed as a result.

Top Skills Taught to Military Servicemembers:

  • Emergency room preparedness
  • Computer security
  • Microsoft SQL server
  • Electronic troubleshooting
  • Security risk management
  • Security policies and procedures
  • Leadership
  • Cisco networking
  • Contractor management
  • Program management

Top Jobs Landed As a Result:

  • Management consultant
  • Program manager, IT
  • Systems analyst
  • FBI agent
  • Field service engineer, medical equipment
  • Systems engineer, computer networking, IT
  • Information technology (IT) consultant
  • Intelligence analyst
  • Helicopter pilot
  • Network engineer, IT
  • Project manager, construction
  • Technical writer
  • Business development manager
  • Network administrator, IT
  • HVAC service technician
  • Fireman

As you can see, the military clearly imparts valuable leadership skills and timely technological talents. With this potent toolbox of applicable skills and knowledge, veterans are comfortably able to find jobs after returning home from service, despite the troubled economy and the competitive landscape of the modern workforce.

Additionally, veterans receive preferential treatment for government jobs and have an array of employment assistance services at their disposal.

Veterans Adjusting to Family Life

While most soldiers spend the majority of their deployment dreaming of the day they can be reunited with their families, the transition back to home life can be turbulent.

In fact, the longer the time the veteran has spent away and the more frequent their stints in active warfare, the more difficult it gets to adjust into a crowded house.

Soldiers Returning Home May Have a Difficult Time Adjusting

As referenced in the first section, even though the soldier may be surrounded by the people they love most, there are some inherent hurdles to navigate when it comes to coming home.

Be it isolationism, anxiety, irritability, a short temper, or general disinterest, it’s important that the family fully understands the plight of the displaced soldier and that they realize it’s nothing personal – it’s a phase that requires communal compassion, work, and patience as the veteran works to reintegrate into what may have become a foreign lifestyle.

The Bottom Line

As much as a veteran looks forward to their homecoming, often the “return to normal” is anything but “normal.” Rather, it’s a sudden jolt that can cause a soldier to feel lost in a familiar setting.

However, there are many programs and resources available to help ease the transition so that the American soldier may know they are not forgotten.

The Low VA Rates Family

Low VA Rates is a company that focuses on helping veterans access homeownership benefits. We know that one goal commonly held by veterans returning from duty is to buy a home, so we offer low rates and great terms to help them on that journey. If you have any questions about getting into a home, please feel free to contact us.

We are also involved in the military conversation and work to help veterans in other aspects of life as well. Check out our blog for more articles like this one.

Arizona Jail Opens Veterans Wing

In Phoenix, more than 200 veteran inmates have been told they will be moving to a segregated wing of the Maricopa County Jail. All Veterans in the custody of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office are now being housed under one roof. Sheriff Joe Arpaio on announced the opening of a new veterans-only section in the Jail in Phoenix.

During a press conference, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio formally announced his plan to house approximately 250 veteran inmates together, in a housing unit that dons “patriotic décor” and features special behavioral programming aimed at dealing with symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  PTSD continues to plague veterans returning from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan – and for incarcerated veterans, coping with the disorder without the help of friends or family can be even more difficult.

Sheriff Arpaio has called himself “America’s toughest sheriff,” particularly on immigration. In October 2013, a federal judge ordered an independent monitor to oversee Arpaio, after ruling that the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office singled out Latinos for detention. Now Sheriff Arpaio says he wants to help veteran inmates dealing with PTSD.

The thought is that housing veterans in one place makes it easier for the Sheriff’s Office to provide services that will help ease the inmates’ eventual transition back into the community.

“I believe we have to do everything we can for our veterans,” Arpaio told a group of veterans being held on suspicion of charges including driving under the influence, robbery and burglary. “Many of you who have fought for our country are here. Some of you, unfortunately, have some medical-mental problems I want to make sure that’s rectified. I want to make sure we do everything we can to find a job for you when you leave this jail.”

Arpaio said many of the county’s approximately 250 veterans in detainment have post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and other mental-health issues. Housing veterans in a common area will allow them to support one another and make it easier to provide counseling, job training and other services from the county and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, officials said.

“It is my hope that this program will give you the tools and opportunity to address issues that you are facing in your life and will assist you in getting back on your feet and back to the way of life that you served to protect,” Arpaio wrote in an open letter to the inmates being moved.

The facility is festooned with painted red, white and blue stripes, and decorated with emblems and flags from the various branches of the military. A large mural painted by an inmate depicts an American soldier on one knee with his head bowed in prayer.

Sgt. Jennifer Perks, who supervises the jail’s outpatient substance abuse program and inmate transition services, said, “While they’re here we’re going to make the best use of their talents (as) we can. Our intention is for them to be successful when they leave the jail.”

Perks said officials hope having the inmates separated from the general population will help them stay on the straight-and-narrow.

“We’re hoping that they motivate each other to continue to be successful.”

Being able to live around other vets was an “unbelievable gift,” said inmate Justin MacGregor, a former Navy petty officer from Phoenix.

Inmate Jesus Garcia, a Chandler resident and former Army specialist who worked as a mechanic, said vets with emotional or mental scars can relate to each other in ways that no one else can.

“We can talk to each other,” he said. “It’s a bond.”

Arpaio hopes to use segregated housing as a way to honor veteran inmates’ commitment to service.

“This program is our way of letting you know that we have not forgotten that commitment, despite whatever circumstances in your life have landed you into the custody of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office,” Arpaio wrote in his open letter.

Programs like these have popped up across the country in recent years, with veteran inmate wings opening in Georgia and Los Angeles. Phoenix’s program is similar to one implemented more than three years ago in San Francisco County.

At San Francisco’s County Jail Five in the San Bruno Jail Complex, the COVER program (Community of Veterans Engaged in Restoration) has been housing incarcerated veterans together since September 2010.

County sheriff’s office spokesperson Susan Fahey says the 48 veterans in COVER go through intensive programming every day, and she doesn’t hear complaints from inmates saying they don’t want to be there.

“From what I’ve seen, the inmates seem to be very appreciative to have something tailored to them,” Fahey said to ABCNews.com.

 

 

Understanding Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Saturday, August 24, James Glaser and his service dog, Jack, went into a local Massachusetts restaurant called Big I’s for lunch. Moments later, James was being forced to leave by the restaurant owner, for having a “fake” service dog.  James Glaser is a disabled Iraq War Veteran, and is suffering from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

To help James overcome attacks of PTSD, he was given a service dog, who James says is the only thing that can calm him during stressful situations.   “When I start getting upset he smells the difference in me and he will claw at my chest and he will put his arm around my neck,” said Glaser. “We just got into the restaurant and I hear get that fake service dog out of my restaurant.”   Restaurant co-owner, Russell Ireland, says he doesn’t consider Jack a true service dog.   “This is a post-traumatic stress dog. It’s to give him emotional support. How much emotional support do you need when you are eating breakfast,” Ireland said.

Not all people fully understand what PTSD is, or how you get it. If you have experienced severe trauma or a life-threatening event, you may develop symptoms of PTSD.  Maybe you felt like your life or the lives of others were in danger, or that you had no control over what was happening.  You may have witnessed people being injured or dying, or you may have been physically harmed yourself.   Some of the most common symptoms of PTSD are recurring memories or nightmares of the events, sleeplessness, loss of interest, or feeling numb, anger, and irritability.  But there are numerous ways PTSD can impact your everyday life.

As one veteran recalled, “Even though I knew they were just fireworks on the 4th of July, to me they still sounded like incoming mortars. It took me right back to my deployment…”   “I used to get mad, yell, break things,” Glaser said, explaining his PTSD.  That’s why having his service dog with him at all times is so important, to help Glaser prevent such actions from happening.   The American Disabilities Act says restaurants and other businesses must, “allow someone with PTSD to bring in a service animal that has been trained to calm the person when he or she has an anxiety attack.”

Ireland is learning the hard way about what PTSD is, and how to accommodate persons who have it. The incident drew criticism on social media and harassing phone calls, and threats to burn down his business.  Passing drivers showed their anger by honking their horns.  Ireland says he now has a better understanding of the situation because veterans have come in or called and explained to him how an animal can help veterans cope with PTSD. “I’m changing my mind and my stance,” he said.

Ireland has apologized for throwing Glaser out of the restaurant, but Glaser said he has yet to hear from Ireland directly and is still planning a rally at Big I’s on Saturday to draw attention to the issue. Treatment for PTSD, on top of using service dogs to help relieve stress, includes counseling and medication.  Professional counseling can help you understand your thoughts and discover ways to cope with your feelings. Medications, called selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors, are used to help you feel less worried or sad.

In just a few months, these treatments can produce positive and meaningful changes in the quality of your life. They can help you understand and change how you think about your trauma, and change how you react to stressful memories. In addition to getting treatment for PTSD, you can adjust your lifestyle to help relieve symptoms.

For example, you can contact other veterans who are also experiencing PTSD, letting you connect with others going through similar things that you are.  Exercising can help reduce physical tension. Volunteering in your community can help you reconnect with your community.  Also, let your friends and family know what places and activities make you uncomfortable.   Your friends and family may be the first to notice that you’re having a tough time.  Turn to them when you are ready to talk.  It helps to share what you’re experiencing, and they may be able to support and help you find treatment.

Trying to Prevent Veteran Suicides

Shortly before his death on June 10, Army veteran Daniel Somers wrote a note for his family.

“I am left with basically nothing,” he typed on his laptop at their Phoenix townhouse. “Too trapped in a war to be at peace, too damaged to be at war.”  Daniel’s service in Iraq, including multiple combat missions as a turret gunner, left him with severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury.  But the government, he wrote, had “turned around and abandoned me.”

Somers felt frustrated in his efforts to get mental health and medical care from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). He was caught in VA’s notorious disability claims backlog, which at its peak in March included more than 900,000 compensation requests from veterans, two thirds of them waiting for over 125 days.  When Somers died, his case seeking full disability for his PTSD had been awaiting resolution for 20 months.

“Is it any wonder then that the latest figures show 22 veterans killing themselves each day?” Somers asked in his note.

The VA has currently developed a system to move all disability claims to the digital realm, where with the use of computer programs, they can become current on all claims, and stay current.  In a statement expressing condolences for Somers’s death, VA said that it “has made strong progress in the treatment of mental health disorders” in recent years, including hiring more than 1,600 mental health professionals in the past year, developing a suicide-prevention program to identify those at risk and bolstering its 24-hour Veterans Crisis Line. Over the past year, the Phoenix VA medical center has hired 32 health workers.

“Still, more must be done,” the department said.

Nearly one in every five suicides nationally is a veteran – 18 to 20 percent annually – compared with Census data that shows veterans make up about 10 percent of the U.S. adult population.

A 2007 law required the VA to increase its suicide prevention efforts. Since then, the department’s efforts include educating the public about suicide risk factors, providing additional mental health resources for veterans and tracking veteran suicides in each state. The VA’s mental health care staff and budget have grown by nearly 40 percent over the last six years, and more Veterans are seeking mental health treatment.

One of the most important results the VA has gotten since 2007 is the Veterans Crisis Line.  The Veterans Crisis Line – a national phone line – has experienced a steady increase in the number of calls, texts and chat session visits from former soldiers struggling with suicidal thoughts. In 2007, its first year, 9,379 calls went to the crisis line. Each year, the call volume has increased, reaching 193,507 calls in 2012.

“It’s discouraging to keep looking at the suicide rates, and we have to keep plugging away,” said Dr. Jan Kemp, the VA national suicide-prevention coordinator, and program manager of the crisis line. But she said without resources such as the crisis line, “the rates would be higher.”

The VA continues to research leading causes in veteran suicides, and how they can better help prevent it. One of those leading causes is Veterans experience periods of readjusting into civilian life.  Traits and training needed to survive in a war zone – like maintaining constant alertness – might contribute to troubling behaviors in civilian life, including edgy feeling while being easily startled. These behaviors can lead to more stress, and bring back memories from their service, leading their mind into PTSD.

Clinton Hall, 35, lives in Portland, Oregon, working as a supply-chain analyst. He served in Iraq and Afghanistan as an Army specialist and was discharged in 2007.  One of his close friends, who was also a veteran, committed suicide upon coming home.

“The bad part about it is that he didn’t give us a chance to talk. I mean, if he had just said, ‘Hey, Clint I’m thinking about doing this.’ I could have said, hey man, I’m thinking about doing it too.  You got to have that conversation. You have to tell somebody, as embarrassing as it is,” he said.

Hall, who was diagnosed with PTSD following his return home, had a message from veterans who might struggle – as he did – with suicidal thoughts:

“Talk to anybody.  If you’ve got a number or an email address for your battle buddies, reach out to them. Chances are, they’re feeling the same way you do.  If you don’t have anybody to talk to, call the VA. Call the suicide prevention hotline. Hell, if you can find me on Google, contact me and we’ll talk. But don’t do it (commit suicide). I’m thinking about it too, I know other people are too. But don’t do it.”

The Veterans Crisis Line can be reached online or by calling 800-273-8255.

 

The Truth about PTSD

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is potentially the most misunderstood mental health issue that exists in our society. Many do not know what it is, how it can be contracted, how it is diagnosed, or even whether it is really a condition or just a trick of the mind. But with the passing of the 4th of July, many veterans with PTSD will experience again the effects of their trauma.

 

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can be brought on by more than just combat situations. Often, victims of sexual or physical abuse can be diagnosed with PTSD, and experience similar symptoms as those who experienced a traumatic experience while in the military. PTSD is, essentially, a lasting condition that comes as a result of an experience where the person felt intense horror, fear, or helplessness. Oftentimes, when an individual experiences something traumatic, they will experience feelings of fear and anxiety, bad dreams, anger, and shock. This, however, does not qualify as PTSD.

 

In order to be diagnosed as PTSD, several criteria need to be met. First, the symptoms need to persist for over a month and they need to prevent the person from living as they did before the event. Normally, as a person recovers from a trauma, the symptoms slowly go away and eventually disappear, but in a person with PTSD, the symptoms continue and even get more potent as time goes on. From a combat situation, a person suffering from PTSD may be sent into a seemingly unreasonable state by things that remind them of the trauma. For example, the lights and sounds of fireworks exploding in the air above them.

 

Combat veterans across the nation find ways to deal with the effects that the many unexpected loud, sudden noises and flashes of light can have on them. Stories range from merely closing their eyes and taking a deep breath to getting a hotel room in a high-rise hotel for the whole week of the 4th of July. But regardless, the symptoms of PTSD associated with fireworks help those who may doubt the existence of such a condition understand the truth of it. PTSD is a diagnosable, often debilitating disease. PTSD can cause extreme paranoia, unreasonable anger, fear, an inability to sleep, and panic attacks.

 

The 4th of July isn’t the only occasion that can cause these sort of symptoms in service members suffering from PTSD; any holiday or celebration where loud, sudden noises may occur can cause anything from mild anxiety to a full-blown panic attack. But as awareness and knowledge about PTSD increases, the methods of treatment advance and change to meet the needs of those seeking it. At the VA San Diego, they’ve been using Skype to videoconference with their patients.

 

While it is a bit different from face-to-face, the general consensus is that it is very effective and after a while the camera is forgotten and their doesn’t seem to be anything unusual about the session. In a country where the veterans are as widespread as can be, and there are only so many places to go to get treatment for PTSD, videoconferencing may be a much sought after solution for many veterans who aren’t able to travel to a VA clinic for help. In fact, in a study done to test the effectiveness of the videoconferencing, it showed that after 12 months, the groups that were meeting in person and those meeting over the internet were at the same level of recovery.

 

The videoconferencing does, however, lack some of the more intimate aspects of meeting with a therapist, from things as simple as a handshake to noticing specifics about body language and physical appearance. It can be difficult to tell if a patient looks “worse” one day. Then there is the foreseeable problems concerning reliability of internet connections and quality of webcams. Since most laptops come with built-in webcams these days, that is not usually a large barrier.

 

Success stories have already arisen from this new method of reaching out to veterans suffering from PTSD, and it is expected that while the face-to-face method of counseling will never go away, the usage of online video chat will continue to expand so that any veterans who are too far from a VA clinic to travel there for each appointment can still have access to treatment for PTSD and repair their lives.

NEADS Assistance Dogs

I have a dog. What I mean is my son has a dog and I just mostly get to take care of it. Read on and you will see that I am not complaining. My son, McKay, begged and pleaded for a dog since he was old enough to talk. We had never had a dog. We figured owning a dog would be a lot of work and a hassle whenever we left town. We were mostly wrong about all that. We have gotten a lot more from that dog than we have given.

A Dog Becomes Family

One of my friends, out of the wild blue, stopped by on a winter’s day and asked if we wanted a puppy. He said he had one more. We went over and looked at the litter. They were cute little guys, ½ Australian Shepherd and ½ Blue Healer, cattle dogs. There was one female left. With doubts a plenty we decided to give the dog a home. Our son was as excited as I’ve ever seen him.

I wanted to name the little girl “Wolf,” or “Jet,” or “Atom.” My son named her “Sunshine” instead. I think it took a whole two days for her to be a permanent part of the family. There hasn’t been a cloudy day since Sunshine first shined on our lives.

We found out in just a few days what a lot of disabled and PTSD-suffering vets are also finding out: being around a dog can heal and calm you in ways you never before understood. That’s the truth. Sometimes we find resources in things that we never imagined or never understood. I found it also true that a person doesn’t need to understand in advance how a dog can help. That person can still be dramatically helped by the companionship of a dog. I am a witness to all that.

The bible speaks of the Balm in Gilead (Gen. 37:25; Jer. 8:22; Jer. 46:11), an ointment or a medicine that had highly valued restorative properties. We have long lost that prized recipe, the application of which leads to comfort and healing. Comfort and healing have more than one shape. Gilead’s balm has a modern version in a canine form.

I want to make an introduction.  When I first heard about a nonprofit organization known as NEADS—Dogs  for Deaf and Disabled Americans—I was certain that the premise was sound. But I have never been a soldier and have never been in war, so I couldn’t speak to whether or not a dog might promote healing from those types of pains and horrors.I looked into it, reading a bit. The evidence is overwhelming to the affirmative: dogs help healing. Dogs frequently help suffering vets.

Like most nonprofits, the good that NEADS can do is a factor of the participation they get from others who show they care by donating. I have no affiliation at all with NEADS, but I am sure these wonderful people can use your help, however modest or meager. They have an excellent outreach program to veterans and have even set up a survivor’s fund for the Boston Marathon bombing victims. To those survivors, as for qualifying veterans, NEADS provides assistance dogs at no cost.

Here is just a sampling of what NEADS assistance dogs do for their companions:

  • Help with the transition to prosthetics
  • Aid with balance when walking
  • Retrieve and carry objects
  • Press buttons and open doors
  • Turn lights on and off
  • Provide support on ramps and stairs
  • Offer valuable social interaction
  • Assist with tasks for veterans in a wheelchair
  • Respond to sounds for veterans who have hearing loss

Are you a wounded vet or a vet suffering from PTSD? Do you know someone who is? Most of us do. I invite you to do something meaningful and pay this forward—the NEADS website. My own experience tells me that this is a good work, one that just might add hope into a struggling veteran’s life.

There is yet a balm in Gilead.

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PTSD Facts, Symptoms, & Treatment Options for Military Veterans

Many veterans experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after having lived through traumatic experiences during war. This can affect many parts of a veteran’s life, including their relationships with others, the lives of their loved ones, their well-being, and even their ability to thrive in society.

The good news is that there is help for this condition. The Department of Veterans Affairs provides assistance to veterans who suffer from PTSD and their families.

What Is PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder is an anxiety disorder that can occur after someone has been through a traumatic event. This is not limited to military personnel or veterans. Anyone who has gone through a life-threatening event can develop PTSD, although veterans constitute a significant group of sufferers. Some examples of traumatic events that may lead to PTSD include:

  • Combat or war exposure
  • Child sexual or physical abuse
  • Terrorist attacks
  • Sexual or physical assault
  • Serious accidents
  • Natural disasters, such as fire, earthquake, hurricane, or tornado

Military-Related PTSD: An Infographic

Want an overview of PTSD in the military? Check out the infographic below, and don’t hesitate to share it. Simply click on the image if you’d like to enlarge it and be able to zoom in and out:

An infographic showing facts about post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD

Symptoms of PTSD

It is natural to experience feelings of anxiety, fear, or depression after living through a traumatic event, and these may not necessarily indicate that you have PTSD.

The likelihood of developing PTSD depends on a variety of factors, including how intense the trauma was, how close you were to the event, and how much help and support you received after the event.

The following are four types of symptoms of PTSD:

  • Reliving the event: This includes bad memories, nightmares, and re-experiencing strong emotions associated with the event. For veterans, this comes commonly in the form of nightmares and flashbacks, but can also be caused by a “trigger” factor, like a noise or seeing something that causes you to relive the event.
  • Avoiding situations that remind you of the event: You may try to avoid situations or people that remind you of what occurred, or avoid even talking or thinking about it.
  • Feeling numb: Finding it difficult to express feelings or to have positive feelings towards others. Also, you may not be interested in activities that you once enjoyed.
  • Feeling keyed up or jittery: You may feel like you’re always on alert, have a hard time sleeping or concentrating, or become startled easily. You may also become angry or enraged without much provocation.

People with PTSD may feel hopelessness, shame, or despair. Employment or relationship problems are also common, and alcohol or drug use may also occur at the same time as PTSD.  If you experience symptoms like these for a prolonged period of time (over several months) or they begin to interfere with your normal life or relationships, you may have PTSD.

Support for Veterans with PTSD

There is help available through counseling and/or medication, and the Department of Veterans Affairs offers help for veterans living with PTSD.Every VA Medical Center has PTSD specialists who can diagnose and provide treatment for veterans. Plus, the VA provides nearly 200 specialized PTSD treatment programs, including Community Based Outpatient Clinics which offer mental health services.

Additionally, every VA Medical Center in the country has a Women Veterans Program Manager, devoted specifically to aiding women veterans in receiving services. Contact your local VA medical center for assistance if you feel you may be suffering from PTSD.

You are eligible for VA care if you:

  • Completed active military service in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, or Coast Guard
  • Were discharged under other than dishonorable conditions
  • Members of the National Guard and Reserves who have completed a federal deployment to a combat zone

The National Center for PTSD offers a lot of good educational resources for learning more about PTSD and how veterans and their families can cope. Go to www.ptsd.va.gov for more information.

You can also visit http://www.mentalhealth.va.gov/ for more info on mental health services that the VA offers and to find a VA facility near you, or call 1-877-222-VETS (1-877-222-8387).

Women veterans can go to http://www.mentalhealth.va.gov/womenvets.asp or http://www.publichealth.va.gov/womenshealth/index.asp for information on specific VA programs for women veterans.

The Bottom Line

Those who serve in our armed forces are an important part of our national community. If you know someone who is having difficulty coping with war-related events, or you are facing these difficulties yourself, there is help available.

Know that you are not alone in this, and you do not need to try to tough it out. Many veterans seek PTSD and are able to find healing and practical solutions. Please confide in someone around you and seek help.

About Low VA Rates

Low VA Rates is a VA-approved lender that has been helping veterans get home loans for over 10 years. We built our business on the desire to help veterans with mortgages, so our team has the passion and expertise necessary to help veterans get great rates and terms on their loans.

Contact us today or visit our website for more information.

 

(Information for this blog post was found on www.ptsd.va.gov)


Veterans Dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Working Together for Treatment

I have often wondered why this is an issue for both men and women in the military.  I have never served in the military so I don’t know what it would be like to always be on my guard and paranoid of attack and learning to suppress my feelings and taking orders all the time.  I can imaging for Veterans that it must be difficult to adapt to civilian life after years of service.  In my line of work I get the privilege of working with Veterans everyday and sometimes it comes up in conversation.  So what is going on to help deal with this situation?

Let me refer to an article that was published in Utah to help Veterans specifically to help deal with PTSD.

Dozens of Veterans are up in Park City for a week-long retreat, and they all have a few things in common.  They all suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.  Veterans back from war are invited to an outdoor retreat to meet others who are also dealing with the memories of war and dealing with PTSD.  It can be intense for the Veterans, but its also a lot of fun!  They are learning how to breath again and relax.  Veteran Erika Vandenberg said, “In Iraq and Afghanistan you were on alert all the time.  You didn’t know who was your friend or enemy, so you were always on alert”.  These Veterans can’t sleep and they’ve shut people out.  “Anxiety around people, being in a crowd, I still have issues with that” Vandenberg said.

The Veterans participate in team-building exercises, learning how to trust and cope with civilian life again, now that they are out of the military.  “Being in the Marine Corp. for six years does a lot to you,” said Veteran Rodriquez.  “You have to hide a lot of emotions and feelings”.

This retreat is a big step for those Veterans who attended and I can imagine that they all want the lives they had before they left for war.

There are things like this going on all over the country and there are support groups that are here to help those who continue to defend our freedoms.

WHAT IS PTSD?

  • You have reoccurring flashbacks and/or nightmaresPost Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • You avoid anything that reminds you of the trauma you experienced
  • You have a heightened state of arousal or anxiety that makes it hard to fall asleep or stay asleep
  • You have trouble controlling your anger–this may or may not include aggression or violence, you just feel a lot of anger
  • You are hyper vigilant–meaning, you are almost always on the alert, looking around, watching other people, etc. as if you were expecting some kind of attack or crisis

This does not only affect the Veteran but it also affects their families too.  I know that there is help for this and I also recognize that some Veterans would not take advantage of that help because they might feel inadequate in admitting they suffer from the symptoms mentioned above, especially if they have learned to reject or “hide” their feelings due to the nature of how they have been trained.  The bottom line is this – you cannot let this go and it must be dealt with when its recognized.  A Vietnam Veteran named Randy Vest said it took him 30 years to finally get life back to normal.  This is probably an extreme case because of how the Veterans were treated after the Vietnam War.  The point is, the sooner a Veteran gets help the sooner life gets back to normal.  Look at it like this – Its just like combat, you don’t quit in the middle of it.  You just keep going until the mission is accomplished.

I didn’t want this to be taken as a charity plead for Veterans, I am simply point out that there are things being done to help our countries Veterans who suffer from PTSD.  Many Veterans don’t have PTSD and as far as I know there is no clues as to determine why some do and some don’t.  For those Veterans that don’t then please offer your friendship and advice to those that do.  If you are a Veteran that does then please contact your local Dept of Veteran Affairs and they can help.  Norman Schwarzkopf said “The truth of the matter is that you always know the right thing to do.  The hard part is doing it”

Good luck – we are with you all the way.

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