Caring for Military Combat Veterans With Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Sunday, 30 July 2017: 1:15 PM

Tanya Marie Benjamin-Wilson, DHSc, MPH, MSN
School of Nursing, Georgia Southern University, Statesboro, GA, USA


Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a growing problem of concern within the military. Veterans serving in combat are more likely to develop PTSD symptoms resulting from participation in wartime conflicts and exposure to traumatic events. Younger veterans with multiple predisposing factors are at an increased risk. The signs and symptoms of PTSD closely mirror the signs and symptoms of other mental health conditions. This can lead to problems with appropriate diagnosis and treatment. Military combat veterans with untreated or misdiagnosed PTSD symptoms are at risk for interference with social, physical, and professional functioning. Problems related to non-existent or inadequate PTSD treatment include alcohol abuse, domestic violence, and the breakdown of close personal and professional relationships. In worst case scenarios, individuals exhibiting signs of PTSD may become homeless, susceptible to criminal activity, and suicidal. Health providers need to be aware of the most up-to-date information regarding the recognition, treatment, and management of PTSD. Evidence from the literature suggests that technology-based interventions may be a more favorable therapeutic treatment option as opposed to numerous talk sessions with a trained therapist. The information provided will assist health care professionals such as (a) physicians, (b) psychologists, (c) physician assistants, (d) registered nurses, (e) nurse practitioners, and (f) social workers in providing better quality of care for military combat veterans in need of mental health services. This educational presentation can be used as a guide for both military and non-military affiliated multidisciplinary professionals in need of basic knowledge and information regarding PTSD. This research will (a) address the most important concepts related to understanding PTSD, (b) PTSD treatment interventions, (c) factors that may interfere with treating PTSD, and (d) access to care issues for military combat veterans in need of services. Mental health issues have historically been stigmatized within all branches of the military. Increased knowledge relating to PTSD may help to change the military cultural norm that favors the non-reporting of signs and symptoms indicative of a mental health disorder. The long held constraints of a professional military environment and culture should not be preserved in the face of serious risks and consequences to the (a) physical, (b) emotional, and (c) psychosocial well-being of dedicated service members. Combat veterans with signs and symptoms of PTSD or any other mental health disorder should be encouraged to seek treatment as soon as possible to prevent negative progression of the disorder and its associated unfavorable outcomes. It is recommended that military administrative officials, with input from health care providers, seriously (a) review, (b) revise, (c) update, or (d) implement policies and procedures that will introduce positive changes in relation to matters concerning military mental health. These changes should foster an environment and culture conducive to military service members feeling free to seek mental health services without fear of (a) bias, (b) stigma, (c) retaliation, or (d) any other negative repercussions, including immediate dismissal from military service.

Keywords: post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), trauma, mental health, military, veterans, health providers