May 20, 2010

Combat PTSD's Stigmata: Why We Hesitate to Ask For Help

The jail was not only a place of employment and a source of income, it also provided me with an invaluable education; especially as far as mental health issues are concerned. I've dealt with bipolar females off their meds getting into physical altercations with loved ones taken into custody actively resisting. I've gone "hands on" with these fellow human beings who have no more control over their actions than any of us can suppress a sneeze or hiccup.

Schizophrenic males screaming at demons taunting them into cutting themselves with plastic spoons filed into a sharp edge on concrete walls, placed on mandatory 15 minute observations draped in suicide smocks in bare cells with lights on 24/7 like some Victorian science experiments. In the beginning I would come home and cry about the plight of incarcerated mentally ill individuals, now I've resigned myself to the fact this is how it is and I cannot possibly take on all the troubles of the world when I have so much going on in my personal life.

So is it any wonder there is a stigma attached to mental health issues given the high profile certain conditions are afforded, which can lead some veterans to conceal the true havoc PTSD is wreaking on their lives deterring them from seeking the help they so desperately need. After all, a soldier is supposed to be strong both physically and mentally right? They may have concerns about being perceived as being down right crazy or weak, or someone who could no longer be counted on, maybe even passed up for a promotion.

And as a spouse, there is a stigma attached to admitting you are unable to cope, overwhelmed and uncertain what to do for the best. It is easy to become angry about being the one that makes sure everything keeps functioning as it should… the laundry, the housework, the cooking, the finances, the kids… it can leave you feeling swamped almost to the point of breaking. But how do you say I’m hurting too, when your loved one has just returned from combat? The veteran has been through so much and your urge to shield them from any additional trauma, to protect them from the stress of dealing with the minutia only heaps it onto your plate making matters worse. For me, I worried admitting to my own issues would somehow be in direct competition with my husband’s needs, a fear I now know was irrational and totally unfounded.

Yes there is a stigma, a stigma which only the truly belligerent of us despite what we're experiencing can shake off, thankful we're not suicidal in a 5x5 cell wearing a tear-proof velcro-fastened smock, not too proud to stand up and wave our hand above the crowd to say "over here people, I'm over here."

1 comment:

  1. You must have posted about the same time. What do you think?


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