Last fall, 462 veterans enrolled at North Dakota State.
While not exclusive to those who have served, nor do all vets suffer from it, post-traumatic stress disorder affects people exposed to traumatic or life-threatening events.
Some side effects include increased paranoia, trouble sleeping and repeated thoughts of the event, ultimately causing distress on the afflicted. The Best Picture-nominated “American Sniper” focuses its lenses on PTSD and its consequences.
But there’s hope.
The NDSU Military and Veterans Services hosted a suicide prevention training through an Applied Suicide Intervention Skill Training seminar put on by Living Works.
Nearly 50 participants attended the training last weekend in the Memorial Union.
Participants took part in small group discussions and skills practice. Videos on suicide intervention were shown, participants learned about suicide first aid and received an ASIST certificate upon completion of the full two-day training.
Kaarin Remmich, NDSU Military and Veteran’s Services Coordinator, said the event went well and looks forward to the event again in the future.
“This group of people strive at being leaders, and this event gives them the opportunity to use their leadership skills in our community,” Remmich said.
Anyone who goes through an extreme event can suffer from PTSD, including, for example, rape and abuse victims.
The issue is most commonly found in veterans and military who return from war. However, it varies for those who develop symptoms.
According to the Veteran Administration website, it is unclear why some develop PTSD and others do not.
One reason may be the intensity of the trauma and how long it lasted, if the person lost someone during the event and how much support the person received after the event.
Calie Craddock, NDSU student senate member and ND Army National Guard Member wants students to know that the person sitting next to them could have PTSD, but you would never know.
“It’s something that happened to them but they function very well,” Craddock said. “These are students with very diverse experiences, and I encourage students to be open and non-judgmental but to not ask them uncomfortable questions. A lot aren’t comfortable being asked questions about their experience, they just want to be supported.”
The VA suggests psychotherapy or counseling for PTSD, along with the use of prescribed medications.
The policies at the VA, however, have been scrutinized after it was discovered many veterans wait months for counseling and become dependent on the medications they are given.
The VA estimated 22 veterans commit suicide every day in a 2012 report. Many also face unemployment, social isolation, homelessness or addiction as they struggle to live with what they experienced as soldiers and the difficulty of adjusting to life back at home. Often, problems are connected to PTSD.
“A lot of these veterans returning to school are older, have families and may even have physical disabilities from the war,” Craddock said. “Their unique experiences make them a unique community in our school.”
On Feb. 3, Obama signed the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act, a bill named after a Marine Corps veteran who killed himself in 2011 after he struggled with PTSD following his deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. He, too, had reportedly waited months to see a psychiatrist, according to an USNews article.
The bill requires independent reviews of the VA and Department of Defense programs aimed at prevention, creates peer support and community outreach programs and forms a program to repay loan debt for psychiatry students to encourage them to work in the VA health system.
Remmich wants the community to know about an upcoming opportunity titled VALOR, or the veteran alliance organization. Students, faculty and staff will be educated about the unique needs for veterans. The program will begin this semester at the end of March into April.
PTSD has four common symptoms including: experiencing bad memories or nightmares, also known as night-terrors, causing flashbacks to the event; avoiding situations that remind them of the event — for example, many veterans struggle to watch fireworks displays after deployment; feelings of negativity from guilt or fear; and becoming more alert and on the lookout for danger.