The U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs reports that one in five combat veterans develops Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, either during or shortly after combat. 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. Those who suffer from PTSD should seek medical attention as soon as possible before symptoms worsen and consume a veteran’s entire life. Thus, the sheer intensity of PTSD can lead a veteran to feel hopeless that rehabilitation will ever be a possibility, especially when he or she is confronted with the fact that there is no actual cure for PTSD. Instead, afflicted veterans must battle the disease day by day, which for over 8,000 veterans a year, is just simply too much. 22 veterans a day are currently committing suicide, and many of them are battling a multitude of mental illnesses, PTSD among them.

According to Robert Leahy, Ph.D. in his article called “How to overcome your feelings of hopelessness”, people who experience hopelessness often find themselves asking degrading questions such as “what’s the point?” and “there is no use in trying”. However, these sorts of statements are detrimental to a person’s self-esteem and overall outlook on life. They can quickly inhibit a person’s ambitions, career goals, social networks, and other healthy aspects of a person’s life. So how can an afflicted veteran regain a sense of hope?

First, a change in mentality must be established so that first thoughts about certain situations are not automatically negative. Adopting a “can-do” attitude is a great place to start in order to begin counteracting these self-deprecating habits. In essence, “try something new,” as Leahy advises. Doubt your initial expectations as to how a situation will (negatively) play out, and instead trust that those initial expectations will somehow be proven wrong.

Leahy also recalls how his patients often feel hopeless because “they think they've tried everything to make life better. But, let's be serious, no one has tried everything.” Leahy explains that because his patients haven’t seen results from therapy, medication, and/or a conscious change of perspective, that they conclude that they are in fact “hopeless”. “But there are different kinds of therapy, different techniques and combinations of different medications to try”. So don’t give up on yourself!

Also, consider receiving medical help for other symptoms of PTSD, as PTSD is one of the root cause of hopelessness in veterans. However, veterans who suffer from PTSD are strongly discouraged from seeking medical attention by ways of the VA. Reports released by CBS News in 2013 revealed that medical professionals associated with the VA prescribed 259% more narcotics than in 2002, and that individualized therapy had fallen by the wayside. A medical practitioner associated with the VA anonymously admitted to CBS News in a TV interview that “it is easier to write a prescription for narcotics and to just move along and get to the next patient” so that more veterans would be “treated”. This news outbreak, coupled with the 2014 VA scandal, hopefully cause ailing veterans to consult non-associated medical facilities 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.