The two most recent wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan have left hundreds of thousands of U.S. combat soldiers in utter mental distress. The U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs has even conducted an intensive study as to what wartime activities were especially provocative to combat soldiers, and how each reacted to them.

The battlefield is possibly one of the most stressful and volatile atmospheres that quickly takes a massive toll on the human mind. The study conducted by the USDVA reports how incidents such as witnessing death, the constant fear of being shot or killed, and knowing someone who has been injured or died during combat are only some of the emotionally traumatic experiences that combat soldiers of both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars can recall in an article on the USDVA’s website called “Mental Health Effects of Serving in Iraq and Afghanistan”.

The article also links specific reasons as to how and why the combat veterans of both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars specifically suffer from various forms of mental illness, including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. The Mayo Clinic defines PTSD as having three main categories of symptoms: “re-experiencing symptoms,” “avoidance symptoms,” and “hyperarousal symptoms”. These categories can be simplified to describe symptoms of flashbacks and nightmares, feeling of guilt and depression, and insomnia, respectively. Combat veterans of America’s two most recent wars report that they experienced higher levels of stress and trauma due to longer deployments, “lower morale and poor social support within the unit,” prior trauma exposure (like being deployed on multiple tours), and “more severe combat exposure,” like being on the frontline.

Unfortunately, although PTSD has been formally recognized by the medical community since the Vietnam War, many military personnel still refuse to acknowledge the existence of PTSD. Since the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs finds that one in five combat veterans develops PTSD either during or shortly after combat, the military simply cannot afford to lose 20% of its men and women needed to defend the United States.

But these men and women who have bravely served in the past two American wars deserve to be treated for their physical and mental ailments that were developed during combat. PTSD, and any mental illness for that matter, is a serious issue that should be properly dealt with as soon as possible, before its effects cause permanent damage. Talk therapy and psychiatric medication are two thorough and trustworthy treatment methods in which soldiers can confide, although they should be wary about where they seek these kinds of rehabilitation.

Veterans should be wary of seeking this sort of treatment through the VA, since reports released by CNN in 2012 revealed that medical professionals associated with the VA prescribed 259% more narcotics than in 2002, and that individualized therapy had fallen by the wayside. Therefore, ailing soldiers and veterans who suffer from PTSD might want to consider consulting outside organizations to rehabilitate their physical and mental health.

One of those organizations is 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.