About Invisible Wounds

Invisible Wounds, An Evident Reality

 

LifeQuest is very aware of the personal sacrifice, effort and stress that military personnel must undergo in service.  The life of a service man or woman has never been busy, but conditions of the last ten years has presented all our military with unique challenges never before seen in previous conflicts such as length and numbers of deployments.  The nature of the enemy they face is also complicated in that we do not know, when, where, or how they will strike and that identifying the enemy is difficult and made worse by the fact that they strike from within civilian populations employing the elderly, women, and children to act as weapons of war.  These situations create a significant stress that causes disorders in many service men and women even if they have not seen combat or receive diagnosis.  These invisible wounds are not unique to this generation, but they are still not understood well by the medical community nor, especially, by the civilian population.

 

New problems have arisen in modern combat.  Soldiers rely on advances in both the medical field and battlefield armament to protect them during battle.  However, the progress in both of these fields has revealed new issues for veterans.  Soldiers are surviving bomb blasts and other types of inflicted wounds that they typically would not have lived through in previous wars.  Soldiers today are screened for numerous types of wounds before they even leave the combat theater on their way home.  Despite these precautions, many veterans are returning home from the combat theater with issues that go deeper than physical wounds.  Some of these wounds are invisible to the eye and affect hundreds of thousands of veterans.

 

Invisible wounds include Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Depression.  If left untreated and unrecognized, the consequences can be severe.  According to statistics posted by Veterans Prevail, in 2009 there were more suicides by military veterans than there were lives lost in the Iraq and Afghanistan war efforts combined.[1], [2]  On average 18 veterans take their own lives each day, which is one every 80 minutes.[3]  Almost 40% of Iraq veterans are diagnosed with a mental health condition like depression or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).[4]  Of these, one quarter receive only minimal care, while half receive no care at all.[5]  Veterans with mental conditions are more likely to be homeless and/or suffer from substance abuse than their civilian counterparts.4, [6] They are two times more likely to get divorced, three times more likely to be unemployed and four times more likely to attempt suicide.[7], [8], [9] According to the U.S. Army Wounded Warrior Program (2010), the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have resulted in traumatic brain injury (TBI) affecting up to 20% of returning combat veterans.[10]  The physical and invisible injuries incurred often affect the soldier’s ability to reconnect with their families and communities while inhibiting their ability to transition to civilian or military life.

 

The veteran is not the only one that suffers when an invisible wound goes untreated.  They have great difficulty reconnecting with their families and their communities.  Transitioning out of the military into civilian life can be extremely difficult.  According to the RAND Center for Military Policy Research (2008), the societal cost of these mental and psychological injuries ranges from $4.0 to $6.2 billion.5 This number only reflects the ones the medical system catches and does not reflect present day (2011) numbers which are higher. These startling statistics and concern for our wounded, ill, and injured veterans should issue our call to action. We need to come together as a community and create solutions for today’s veterans.

 

 

References

[1] Veterans Prevail Pepsi Refresh Project Video. 2011: Available from:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DDhh6eIsoDY

[2] Donnelly J. More troops lost to suicide. Congressorg [serial on the Internet]. 2011: Available from:http://www.congress.org/news/2011/01/24/more_troops_lost_to_suicide.

[4] Seal KH, Metzler TJ, Gima KS, Bertenthal D, Maguen S, Marmar CR. Trends and risk factors for mental health diagnoses among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans using 2 of 2 Department of Veterans Affairs health care, 2002-2008. American Journal of Public Health2009 Sep; 99(9):1651-8.

[5] Tanielian TL, Jaycox L, Rand Corporation. Invisible wounds of war : psychological and cognitive injuries, their consequences, and services to assist recovery. Santa Monica, CA: RAND; 2008.

[6] Homelessness Research Institute. Vital mission: ending homelessness among Veterans. Research Reports on Homelessness [serial on the Internet]. 2007: Available from: http://www.endhomelessness.org/files/1837_file_32955_NAEH_CARD_R1.pdf.

[7] Kulka RA, Schlenger WE, Fairbanks JA, Hough RL, Jordan BK, Marmar CR, Weiss DS, Grady DA. Trauma And The Vietnam War Generation: Report Of Findings From The National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study. 1st ed: Brunner Mazel Publishers; 1990.

[8] Zatzick DF, Marmar CR, Weiss DS, Browner WS, Metzler TJ, Golding JM. Posttraumatic stress disorder and functioning and quality of life outcomes in a nationally representative sample of male Vietnam veterans. American Journal of Psychiatry1997:1690-5.

[9] Hendin H, Haas AP. Suicide and guilt as manifestations of PTSD in Vietnam combat veterans. The American journal of psychiatry1991 May; 148(5):586-91.

[10] Report to The [Army] Surgeon General Traumatic Brain Injury Task Force, May 15, 2007. Available from: http://www.aw2.army.mil/assets/documents/TBI_Media_FINAL.pdf.