Yesterday, Memorial Day, was a time to reflect on the contributions of our veterans to maintaining the safety of our nation. This fall will mark the 12th year of the conflict in Afghanistan. In that time, many of our soldiers have returned home and have been confronted with yet another battle: the severe mental disorders that they sustained in battle. As was noted in a report last month from the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center, “persistence of anxiety, depression, sleep disorders, neck, back, and joint pains, headache, and various ‘ill-defined’ conditions among Afghanistan/Iraq war veterans may be recognized as signature scars of the long war.”
Worse than the “ill-defined” conditions that persist are the self-inflicted injuries and suicides committed by soldiers who return from the front lines. As of February, an average of 22 veterans commit suicide every day. 32% of these veteran-suicides were younger than 50.
As we continue to thank our veterans on Memorial Day and every day, it is important to remember that there is so much more we can do to help people returning from war. People suffering from mental health disorders, not just veterans, face societal stigmas that discourage treatment and open conversations about the challenges they face. Our veterans are facing ghosts of their own and we must help them confront their demons so they do not suffer alone.
Image courtesy of CBS News.