Emily Walsh is the Community Outreach Blogger for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance, and when she approached me with a concept for the blog, I immediately accepted. As many of you know, I am an army wife. That is not my only title, but it is a big one. This means that when my husband comes home from a deployment, I often don’t know what to expect. I struggle with how I should present myself. Do I ask questions? Do I ignore the elephant in the room altogether? Do I act like he was just on an extended vacation? More often than not, everything falls into its place, and we are able to get on with our lives smoothly. However, not all soldiers are this fortunate. While all of our men and women come back with battle scars, either physical, emotional, or psychological, some have a more difficult time than others in coping with these scars. Emily has dedicated herself to exploring Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and is devoted to informing the public about its effects on our loved ones. Here’s what she has to say.
Preventing Military-Related Health Problems
Living through the trauma of war is hard for anyone in the military. Unfortunately, some soldiers relive the experience over and over again. Their suffering remains vivid and real long after the danger ends. These soldiers suffer from PTSD, which can affect the entire family.
PTSD is an acronym for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, a mental health condition that is associated with combat veterans. However, service members are not the only individuals who experience this condition. PTSD can affect anyone who has lived through a near-death accident, physical abuse, natural disaster, or other frightening event. No matter who it affects, there is good news: PTSD is treatable and even preventable.
Preventing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Research suggests that Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder may be prevented even before it starts. In a study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), doctors found that early intervention may prevent or reduce the effects of PTSD. Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, are also studying ways to
treat and prevent the syndrome.
This is promising for combat veterans returning from home from war, especially if they can manage their stress in what the NCBI calls “the golden hours” after a traumatic event. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides treatment and support for military families who are dealing with PTSD. Those who see the signs in their own family should not hesitate to call the VA for assistance, and the sooner the better.
Preventing Toxic Military Exposures
In addition to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, many veterans live in a toxic time bomb created by military exposures. The military encounters numerous toxins during the course of service. Health hazards range from chemical and environmental hazards to radiation, air pollutants and warfare agents. Exposure can cause serious health concerns.
The Department of Defense (DOD) prepares Americans in uniform for all the dangers they are likely to encounter during their military service. From education to protective gear, military members are well-protected against the elements and wartime hazards. Nevertheless, some exposure is unavoidable.
Gulf War veterans may suffer from infectious diseases or unexplained illnesses associated with their service in the Middle East and Southeast Asia. Toxic shrapnel fragments, heat injuries and airborne particulates pose health risks for those serving in Afghanistan. Exposure to weapons and equipment noise is potentially damaging to the hearing system.
The military faces many occupational hazards from working with paints, chemicals, machines and equipment. Asbestos exposure is one example. Although the material is no longer used in construction, manufacturing or vehicle parts, many older buildings and vehicles still contain asbestos material. Exposure to the particles can lead to mesothelioma cancer and other health problems.
Warfare agents could potentially cause cancer, nervous system problems and other conditions. Depending on when and where they served, most veterans were exposed to chemical weapons, biological weapons, mustard gas, nerve agents, herbicides or other toxins.
The VA and other health organizations conduct research on illnesses related to military exposures. More than two dozen studies are currently underway for Vietnam, Gulf War, Afghanistan and Iraqi War veterans.
This is important stuff, guys. Pay attention to your servicemen and women when they come home, or even your loved ones who have experienced a traumatic event, aside from warfare. They need our love and support, just as much as we need theirs. Don’t ignore the symptoms.