Mental illness is a lifelong struggle, and many sufferers feel like they are left to deal with their conditions all on their own. Oftentimes, people who suffer from any sort of mental illness feel that they are completely alone and alienated by their condition. Many veterans diagnosed with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, can feel this way once they return home from combat.

PTSD is a condition that is developed after an individual has either witness or undergone a traumatic event. However, not all people who undergo trauma develop PTSD, as highlighted by the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs in a report about how only one in five combat veterans will develop PTSD. But for those who do develop the disorder, their lives will slowly bust drastically begin to spiral out of control, especially if their PTSD is left untreated.

Symptoms include what National Institute for Mental Health categorizes as “re-experiencing symptoms,” “avoidance symptoms,” and “hyperarousal symptoms,”. These symptoms can be further broken down into flashbacks and nightmares, emotional withdrawal and feels of guilt and anxiety, and paranoia respectively, and can easily put strain on the lives and minds of those who suffer and those who are around the victim.

However, in order for recovery to take place, veterans (and others with mental illness) a safe environment paired with a strong support group (like family and friends) are a must. These atmospheres can be created with the following elements:

Familiarity - Individuals with PTSD often feel that their entire outlook on life has changed, mostly for the worst. The depression, nightmares, and anxiety that come along with PTSD can make all hours of the day virtually impossible to cope with, and so it is important to make that affected individual remember happier times in their lives before the trauma. Such an element is highly important for veterans who have been torn away from the real world and their families. While in combat, soldiers are dehumanized to become violent and commit immoral acts—at least in civilian society. But on the battlefield, combat veterans are reprogrammed to no longer abide by civilian rules, and thus murder and violence can come more easily. This sort of mental shift must be addressed as soon as possible when reintroducing a soldier back into civilian society, and especially one that has been affected by PTSD. Familiar aspects of the veteran’s previous standard of living, such as the love of their friends and family, as well as perhaps the comfort of their old bed, can help ease the transition

Support: This element is much harder to establish, as no one else but the traumatized individual was present at the incident. As a result, feelings of alienation and possible resentment can occur, and the traumatized individual might eve refuse support. Do not dismay- avoidance is part of PTSD. If left untreated, the traumatized individual could turn towards alcoholism, drugs, and even suicide in terms of seeking relief. Be there for them instead, and always make yourself available to talk or even just to listen. Try not to empathize, because again, you were not present at the time of trauma. Instead, maintain a loving and supportive mentality, and develop a strong sense of patience. There is no cure for PTSD, only treatment, and the healing process can take a while.

An outside support group and other treatment options might also be a great option to help facilitate rehabilitation. Talk therapy and psychiatric medication are two effective ways to for civilians to cope with anxiety and help get over their fears and trauma. For veterans, similar treatment methods are recommended, but consider exploring alternate routes other than the VA for resources and support. Studies released in 2012 by CNN and other media outlets revealed that rather than creating individualized therapy sessions for each ailing veteran, the VA instead prescribed 259% more narcotics to veterans than in 2002. Although the VA defended these actions as reaching more ailing veterans, many vets were overdosing on their prescribed medication. For this reason, other organizations, such as Operation: I.V., exist to give combat veterans a chance at real rehabilitation.

Operation: I.V, a 501(c)3 non-profit founded in 2012 that helps combat veterans heal from both PTSD as well as traumatic brain injuries. Its founder, Roxann Abrams, is a Gold Star Mother who lost her son SFC Randy Abrams in 2009. Randy took his own life after experiencing a PTSD flashback from his service in Iraq. Randy had undiagnosed PTSD- a common occurrence among combat veterans either due to mistakes made by the medical field or simply the individual’s failure to report such grave symptoms.

As a result of her son’s death, Abrams founded Operation: I.V. so that combat veterans who served in either Iraq or Afghanistan have a place to receive treatment through a specialized “VIP”, or “Veteran Intervention Plan” program. “VIP” offers ten different rehabilitation programs, including hyperbolic oxygen therapy, service dogs, and anxiety reduction therapy. Additionally, veterans may also partake in programs such as job retraining, business mentoring, and educational assistance. Again, while there is no cure for PTSD, the programs provided by Operation: I.V. can drastically improve a veteran’s mental health and overall outlook on life!

Author's Bio: 

Abigail Fazelat is a contributing writer for Operation: I.V., a non-profit organization founded by Gold Star Mother Roxann Abrams who lost her son SFC Randy Abrams to PTSD. Randy took his own life after experiencing a wartime flashback- an experience not uncommon to any combat veteran. As a result, Abrams founded Operation: I.V. as an “intravenous of help” for other Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans suffering from PTSD, traumatic brain injuries, and contemplating suicide. Fazelat has worked for the organization since October 2013 under a pseudonym.