Former president George W. Bush is in the public eye this week as he fights to change the perception of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and increase the chances of veterans getting the help they need adjusting to civilian life after service. President Bush is putting emphasis on removing the stigma attached to “disorder” in the description of a condition which plagues nearly a third of post 9/11 veterans. The condition is brought on, in part, by the stark contrasts between what they witnessed in combat and the realities of life when they return to communities afterwards.
He said in an interview with ABC News that post-traumatic stress is an injury and not a disorder, as calling it a disorder gives veterans the idea that they can’t be treated for it.
US Department of Defense records show 2.5 million service members deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan since operations began in 2001 and in excess of 50,000 US service and coalition force members injured in the conflicts lasting over a decade.
US troops have long since left Iraq and the draw down in Afghanistan is on track to be completed within the year, but the tougher road for American veterans may be the one they walk down as they return to their home towns and communities across the country. High unemployment rates and increasing education costs are two not so welcoming realities that greet home-coming veterans. The George W. Bush Center recently completed a study with Syracuse University which confirmed that these two issues affect veterans the most. Education and jobs are the first two items on the agenda for the majority of returning soldiers and this is where the former president wants to ensure that PTSD doesn’t hurt the chances of those deserving help.
“Too many vets are unemployed,” intoned the former commander-in-chief in the Sunday interview. The civilian-military divide has military trained citizens speaking a language that the nonmilitary population doesn’t quite understand, said Bush. The average business owner will not be able to understand how a former sniper can be a valuable employee, he continues, but helping them see what enormous courage, discipline and steadiness under pressure are required to be successful in that combat role is how we “begin to change the dialogue in the United States, and we’ve got a lot of good support.”
Expert opinion on PTSD says that veteran’s reaction to the extreme emotional challenges of dealing with the disorder are likely to be the same as the reaction 20 percent of the civilian population diagnosed with depression exhibit; they internalize the injuries they have suffered and seek solitude for comfort.
Bound by a deeply ingrained sense of duty, Bush was visibly moved during a recent summit organized by the George W. Bush Institute as part of its Military Service Initiative. ”Obviously I get slightly emotional talking about our vets … I’m in there with them,” he said. “Our nation owes [them] a huge debt of gratitude.”
The Dallas-based public policy center, founded in 2009 by George W. Bush and his wife Laura, works with a local governments, private companies, nonprofit, and higher education organizations to target ways to encourage employers to recruit and retain veterans, especially helping those suffering from PTSD.
By Brian Ryer