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Opinion

February 3, 2012

More needs to be done to aid vets with PTSD

The recent story of Stamford grandmother Melody DiGregorio grieving the loss of her grandson, Air Force veteran Edward "Drew" Snyder, brings home the debilitating and often-unreported effects of post-traumatic stress disorder on our service men and women.

Snyder, 24, was honorably discharged with the rank of senior airman in June 2010. He committed suicide Dec. 9.

PTSD is a condition brought on by experiencing episodes of psychological or physical trauma, such as the life-threatening events and constant fear of attack service men and women face in battle. These events can cause heightened anxiety, flashbacks, depression and nightmares.

While still in the Air Force, Snyder received help for PTSD he felt after serving in Iraq in 2008. But, unfortunately, the treatment and medication Snyder received from a Veterans Administration hospital did not do enough to help him through the panic attacks and depression he faced.

According the Department of Veterans Affairs, 11 to 20 percent of the veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars suffer from PTSD.

Snyder and so many other military veterans felt called upon by their government to serve noble causes and put their lives on the line for their country.

They are returning home to find they can't leave the recollections of war behind, which is compounded by the lack of resources and treatment the government can provide.

In a recent VA survey of mental health professionals treating veterans, 40 percent said they cannot schedule an appointment for a veteran in need of help within the 14 days mandated by the agency. Seventy percent said they don't have the adequate staff or space to meet the needs of those they serve.

We must impress upon our elected officials to invest more in the mental health and futures of our veterans, which include specific programs to help find jobs and educational opportunities for those suffering from PTSD.

Also, we must work to break the stigma placed on those facing PTSD and other less-visible, psychological wounds of war. This can be achieved through understanding and awareness of the effects of the condition in daily life.

While the Veterans Crisis Line website, veteranscrisisline.net, says many veterans do not show indications they are about to hurt themselves, you can look out for some of the warning signs of PTSD: Depression, anxiety, mood changes and withdrawing from family, friends and activities.

We must also show our support for groups working to get veterans the help they need to succeed at home. These organizations include Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Veterans for Common Sense, MaketheConnection.com (through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs) and DoSomething.org.

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