Veterans With PTSD

The Government’s Handling of Mental Health, Past and Present

It’s common knowledge that deployment isn’t for the weak. The military is focused on training its recruits to be physically fit and ready for battle, but how does the government prepare its soldiers for the outside world? Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, commonly known as PTSD, is a mental disorder that develops when a person experiences a traumatic event such as war, losing a loved one, tragic accidents, or abuse.

Soldiers are exposed to death and war consistently because of their work environment, and that leads to many of them struggling with PTSD after they are discharged. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, “PTSD is slightly more common among veterans than civilians. At some point in their life, 7 out of every 100 Veterans (or 7%) will have PTSD.” May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Take a look at how the government handled soldiers and veterans with PTSD throughout history.

How was PTSD Treated in the Past?

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder was not discovered during World War I. Symptoms of PTSD such as nightmares, fatigue, and irritability diagnosed as “shell shock.” Soldiers coined the term themselves to document their experiences during war. Soldiers experienced shell shock. The men exposed themselves to death and violence by their enemies or fellow soldiers and their bodies were constantly in turmoil from fighting. Medical treatment for shell shock was not available because there hadn’t been any scientific documentation about the condition years prior, so most of the time victims went untreated.

Toxic masculinity had a huge effect on how mentally ill soldiers were treated. By other soldiers, victims of shell shock were dubbed as “weak” because they couldn’t handle being on the battlefield, which was traditionally a man’s job. Some soldiers were told to rest for a few days and then return to duty and other doctors went as far as to perform shock therapy to shock victims back to “normal.” The people that America likes to title as “heroes” were treated more like victims of government control.

How is PTSD Treated Today?

PTSD is recognized as a mental disorder today. The American Psychiatric Association coined the term in 1980 in their third edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. People diagnosed with PTSD can receive medication to relieve their symptoms. People also choose to take Cognitive Behavior Therapy, also known as CBT. In CBT, people develop coping mechanisms to live with their trauma. The Department of Veterans Affairs provides treatment options for veterans suffering from PTSD, depression, and anxiety. Their website,, contains resources such as therapy, mental health screening, and information on various mental illnesses.

Veterans can identify symptoms early and seek help promptly. However, some veterans still face PTSD due to homophobia, misogyny, racism, and ableism present within the military. Ideally, the government should make concerted efforts to treat soldiers as the heroes they claim to be.

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