Here are methods that can help prevent PTSD after military service.
Veterans have a higher risk of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, than the average civilian. Certain risk factors for PTSD can put some veterans more at risk than others. Still, preventing PTSD after military service is possible, and experts have found certain “buffers” that can lower a veteran’s risk.
“Some veterans, following their military service, do struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder that can be very interfering in their life,” says Amanda M. Spray, PhD, psychologist at NYU Langone Health. “But it’s also very important to realize that PTSD does not affect all veterans.”
Even if a veteran has experienced a traumatic event during their deployment, there are ways to promote healthy recovery from their trauma. These preventative strategies can be helpful in preventing PTSD after military service.
Integration into their community can be a major help to many veterans, according to Dr. Spray. This can take many forms, and different veterans may prefer different types of communities.
Support from family and friends can be a great buffer against PTSD after military service, according to the National Institute on Mental Health. However, some people might need to look outside their social circle to seek out support and community.
“The camaraderie is a huge part [of my recovery] and my mental health did skyrocket,” says Amanda Burrill, veteran of the United States Navy. “I’ve swung into many a support group and I can always learn something. I can always contribute something, and that makes me feel included, too.”
Types of communities to find belonging include:
- Sports activities (e.g. kickball leagues, hiking clubs)
- Religious groups
- Meetups in your area related to a hobby
- Volunteer groups
- Disaster response organizations
Some of these activities, such as volunteering for disaster response, also allow you to transfer some of your military skills to your civilian life, says Dr. Spray.
Finding a Meaningful Career
“Often, veterans transitioning out of the military into the civilian world struggle with finding jobs that are truly representative of their experiences,” says Dr. Spray. “One thing that can be very helpful for those individuals is to access the services of different veteran service organizations that can connect them to the jobs that they’re hoping to obtain.”
For example, there are programs to help veterans work on job readiness and resume building. There are also websites dedicated to career and education opportunities for veterans.
“We certainly see that it can be very helpful for veterans—once they come back to the civilian life—to have a community to return home to,” says Dr. Spray. “To have that camaraderie that they typically have when they’re in the military … can be very helpful in helping buffer against some reactions to traumatic experiences.”
Amanda M. Spray, PhD, is a psychologist at NYU Langone Health in New York City and a clinical associate professor at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine.
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Some veterans following their military service
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do struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder
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that can be very interfering in their life.
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But it's also very important to realize that PTSD
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does not affect all veterans.
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Even though PTSD is a complex condition
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with many symptoms that can interfere
with someone's life,
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it's very important for people to know
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that there are many treatments out there
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that are evidence-based to show
that they can
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really improve someone's experience in their life.
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Individuals with PTSD will not only benefit
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and possible medication management
of their symptoms.
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Another aspect that we think is really important
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is integration into their community,
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whatever that means for them.
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The camaraderie is a huge part
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and my mental health did skyrocket.
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I've swung into many a support group
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and I can always learn something.
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I can always contribute something,
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and that makes me feel included, too.
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There are great organizations that you can
get involved in
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to help rebuild that camaraderie
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that you may not be experiencing as a civilian
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and that you're missing from your military experience,
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so some examples are sports activities,
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other activities include helping with disaster response
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in different parts of the country
when disasters are experienced,
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coming together with other veterans
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to use the skills that were cultivated in the military
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to now serve in one's civilian life.
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Often, veterans transitioning out of the military
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into the civilian world struggle with finding jobs
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that are truly representative of their experiences.
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and so one thing that can be very helpful
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for those individuals is to access the services
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of different veteran service organizations
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that can connect them to the jobs
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that they're hoping to obtain.
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Job readiness is another very important aspect,
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and so there are lots of organizations out there
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that can help you with resume building,
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helping to translate military service
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into what it might look like on a civilian resume.
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Helping someone to determine if they want
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to go back to school.
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GI Bill benefits are wonderful
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and hopefully should be utilized
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because connecting someone with
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is so helpful in their transition process.
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We certainly see that it can be very helpful
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for veterans once they come back to the civilian life
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to have a community to return home to,
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to have that camaraderie that they typically have
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when they're in the military, to have as a civilian
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can be very helpful in helping buffer
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against some reactions to traumatic experiences.
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