Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – an Invisible Wound that Changes Lives

 In PPH San Antonio, Service Dog Training, South-Mid Region, Volunteers

Every day, our Paws for Purple Hearts Program Instructors witness the effects of PTSD on our wounded Warriors. According to the National Center for PTSD, approximately 10-20% of veterans who deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom (OIF/OEF) suffer from PTSD. Combat-related trauma is a major contributing factor of high numbers of PTSD in our veterans, but Military Sexual Trauma (MST) also constitutes a substantial percentage; Around 23% of women reported sexual assault while in the military and over 50% of women and 38% of men experienced some form of sexual harassment during their service. Many veterans struggle to overcome not only the effects of war, but the transition process to civilian life.

What is PTSD?

PTSD is a mental health disorder that occurs after someone witnesses or experiences a life-threatening event such as combat or a sexual assault. It is normal for someone to experience symptoms for a short time after a traumatic event, but experiencing them for a prolonged period of time is not.

The  symptoms of PTSD includes, but not limited to:

  • irritable or aggressive behavior
  • recklessness or self-destructive behavior
  • hypervigilance
  • exaggerated startle response
  • emotional numbness
  • concentration problems
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • isolation
  • insomnia
: In order from left to right: Noah, Libby, Lucy, and Rusty (in back) take a quick break during a training session
Lucy and Libby at the Vietnam traveling wall

What can be done to mitigate the symptoms?

  • Gather tools for your toolbelt

There are many “tools” veterans can accumulate for their “Post-Military Life Toolbelt”.  One great program a handful VA’s are participating in (including the Audie Murphy Memorial VA Hospital) is called Whole Health for Life. Whole Health takes an in-depth look and what matters most to the veteran and puts them in the center of their healthcare/treatment rather than their disease or disability. The Whole Health model is a holistic look at the many areas of life that can affect one’s health, such as work environment, relationships, diet and sleep patterns. Participants dive into self-exploration, self-care, and goal creation about what matters most to them. To learn more, contact your local VA Whole Health Representative.

  • Team up with your closest Paws for Purple Heart location and participate in a Canine-Assisted Warrior Therapy® program

Canine Assisted Warrior Therapy® is an innovative type of therapy offered to active-duty service members and veterans that allows them to experience relief of their symptoms and healing by helping other veterans. When participating in Canine-Assisted Warrior Therapy®, veterans who are suffering from PTSD, TBI and/or MST symptoms assist the PPH instructors in the care and training of future service-dogs. Soothing, light-hearted contact with PPH puppies and dogs, together with caring and capable trainers, eases a warrior’s symptom severity.

Program instructors guide warriors to learn once again how to connect with others, both dogs and humans. Over time, warriors who participate regain that sense of purpose that comes with accomplishing an important mission.

All of Paws for Purple Hearts’ services are provided at no charge to Veterans or Active-Duty Service Members. In order to make this happen, we do rely heavily on donations from individuals and businesses within our community. If you are able, please donate to our cause of providing service dogs and Canine-Assisted Warrior Therapy free of charge.

As always, we would like to thank our volunteers for their willingness to support Paws for Purple Hearts in any way possible. PPH would not be able to have such a successful organization without you and countless veterans thank you for your kindness.

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