Much has been done in recent years to raise awareness of Combat-Related PTSD. The statistics are now well-known: approximately 1 in 5 service members returns home with some degree of PTSD. What is also well-documented is the rate of suicide among veterans of all eras - 22 per day. The truest question remains - has all of this increased awareness decreased or increased the stigma of PTSD? While I feel that the efforts are to be commended, awareness without education has only increased the stigma. I see it and hear it every day online and in the real world. Yes, many more are aware of PTSD. The issue is that the increased awareness has not bred understanding.
People fear what they do not understand.
PTSD is grossly misunderstood. While many feel the best way to battle the stigma is to confront it head-on, it has been proven to do more harm than good. How many times have I heard it: "Yeah I know what PSTD is - it's when soldiers come home from war and their minds are broken." While this isn't always exactly, word for word, what I hear, the meaning is the same. PSTD was not a typo. If people can't even get the acronym right, what hope do we truly have of earning their compassion and understanding?
What is the end result of this stigma? Employers fear hiring veterans, with and without PTSD. Too many think that having PTSD makes us dangerous and a threat to the safety of other employees in the workplace. As a result, the stigma of PTSD hangs like a cloud of ignorance over all veterans - with or without PTSD. If employers believe that PTSD is dangerous, how likely do you think it is that they are going to take a 20% chance that the veteran they hire is going to have PTSD? If PTSD was a legitimate threat to the safety and stability of the work environment, would you, as a hiring manager or HR rep, play Russian Roulette with the efficiency and effectiveness of current employees? I think not. The stigma of PTSD has limited veterans' options for employment and made it even more difficult to live a fulfilling professional life. Like me, many veterans are relegated to positions not befitting their experience or education.
It's time for this trend to stop. As Executive Director of a new non-profit, Support No Stigma, I propose a new method to fighting this stigma - education of the general public on what PTSD actually is and empowering veterans to take charge of their own professional destiny by teaching them about entrepreneurship.
This can't happen in a vacuum. I need people to step up and join the conversation, to join the cause. Learn more about what we are planning to do to change the PTSD landscape for veterans everywhere. Don't shout "PTSD!!" from the rooftops. Enter the conversation with medical professionals, students, HR departments. Help them understand the TRUTH of PTSD and encourage them to empower veterans with or without PTSD.
As I continue my life with PTSD, I will share my challenges and discoveries on this blog.