Civilians will never know the struggles and torments that soldiers endure while in combat. Because of the highly-stressful and volatile atmosphere of war, it is no wonder that combat veterans find it hard to shake their wartime experiences when returning back to civilian life. It’s as though the two lifestyles were never meant to mix.

Civilian life hosts nothing but morals, while the battlefield hosts nothing but strategy. Out on the front line, a soldier must do anything to survive. Around him lie weapons, disguised by the roadside, waiting to disable or kill him. In turn, he must shoot at anything to protect himself and his men. Most of the time, he shoots to kill.

This mindset, one that completely abandons the morals of civilian society, is instilled during the basic training or boot camp in which the soldiers must enroll before entering combat. While at one point in their lives, murder was once a punishable offense, after training, it becomes expected. Soldiers are in a sense dehumanized, and are instructed to act and react based on pure human rage and hatred. Anthony Chambers, once a sergeant in the U.S. Army, shed light on the goings on at boot camp during a TEDx Talk—from prison. Chambers said that the deep-seated anger that he was taught to harness and express on the battlefield quickly became the only way of expression he knew, but consequently, got him locked up behind bars in the civilian world.

Soldiers are given no coping mechanisms when they return home from combat. They are never told that they will most likely never be the same person as before they enrolled in combat. They are never told that it is okay to simply drop that overpowering anger of which served them so well on the battlefield, since it has no purpose on the civilian world. They are never told that one in five of them have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and can never recover from their time at war. They are never told that thousands more will develop similar mental illness as well as traumatic brain injuries, of which will completely inhibit them to ever return to a life not overrun by their time of service.

The U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs estimates that one in five combat veterans develop PTSD either during or after their service. PTSD can be developed after an individual has either witnessed or experienced a traumatic event, which is why combat soldiers are increasingly more likely to develop the disorder than an average civilian. PTSD has three main categories of symptoms according to the MayoClinic: re-experiencing symptoms, avoidance symptoms, and hyperarousal symptoms. These symptoms can be described more literally as nightmares and flashbacks, feelings of anger and guilt, and trouble sleeping respectively.

There is no cure for PTSD, and the treatment options offered by the VA are notoriously unhelpful. A news report released by CNN in 2012 found that instead of exercising both psychitratic medication as well as talk therapy to help treat ailing veterans, prescription narcotics were prescribed 259% more in 2012 than 2002. The VA explained that due to the influx of veterans affected with mental illness and traumatic brain injury from both the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it was simply easier and faster if the VA prescribed a chain of narcotics to each veteran in order to treat more of them versus spending time in individualized talk-therapy.

However, with this inadequate help, 22 veterans a day are committing suicide due to their inability to cope with their illness or the repeated flashbacks to their time in combat any longer.In fact, a non-profit organization was founded by a Gold Star Mother after her son had taken his own life due to undiagnosed PTSD. The mother, Roxann Abrams, founded Operation: I.V. in her son’s, SFC Randy Abrams, memory, and the organization is geared towards offering effective and individualized treatment to veterans suffering from PTSD and other illnesses as well as traumatic brain injuries.

Veterans can receive treatment through a specialized “VIP”, or “Veteran Intervention Plan” program through Operation: I.V.. “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 transition back into civilian life.

Author's Bio: 

Civilians might seem out-of-touch with the struggles that plague returning veterans, which can delay a veteran's re-acclamation into society. Learn how to prevent this from happening, as well as how YOU can help these vets personally combat their new battle of mental illness at home!