Updated 5 p.m.
Monday is the nation’s official day to focus attention on post-traumatic stress disorder, which affects anywhere from 11 to 20 percent of veterans of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to an estimate from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Among the steps suggested by the VA to increase awareness are posting PTSD Awareness Day flyers in common areas, adding links for PTSD information to Web sites, or printing educational materials about the disorder.
The American Federation of Government Employees, which represents VA employees, issued a warning that the department does not have enough mental health and support personnel to deal with veterans suffering from PTSD.
“We are deeply concerned that we continue to see the top-heavy VA management grow, while the frontline staff treating these conditions shrinks and is forced to do more with less,” AFGE National Secretary-Treasurer J. David Cox said in a release Monday. “The VA must increase staffing and training within the agency to treat the thousands of service members transitioning back into civilian life who are dealing with PTSD and other mental health disorders,”
The VA said Monday it has hired more than 3,500 mental health professionals since January 2009, and that its mental health staff now totals more than 21,000. “This PTSD Awareness Day, VA is continuing to expand our mental health services by providing more staff and more resources to provide veterans and their families with the care and benefits they have earned,” said VA spokesman Josh Taylor.
The Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury has a PTSD blog with additional information.
The wide range in the estimate of the percentage of veterans suffering from PTSD reflects both the difficulty at times in diagnosing the disorder, and the fact that some of those suffering from it do not recognize or seek treatment.
“It’s important to make sure people are aware, educated and that they look for it in themselves, their friends and fellow service members,” Navy Capt. Paul S. Hammer, director of the center, said at a media roundtable last month. “Sometimes reaching out and talking to someone can put that person on the right path to get the help [they need].”
The U.S. Senate last year passed a resolution designating June 27 as National Post-traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness Day. The resolution was sponsored by Sen. Kent Conrad, (D-N.D.) in honor of North Dakota Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Joe Biel, who took his own life following two tours in Iraq. Biel’s birthday was June 27.