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PTSD in the U.S. military: Vet Center offers free counseling
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has taken a new shape in the U.S. military, especially as servicemen and women endure multiple deployments to war zones in the Middle East.
The disorder stems from exposure to the threat of death or injury, such as in combat, accidents and natural disasters.
PTSD can take a heavy toll on mental health. Veterans with PTSD will re-experience trauma in their memories and dreams. They suffer from depression that often hinders readjustment to society — and sometimes leads to homelessness or suicide. Veterans account for 20 percent of the nearly 32,000 suicide deaths in the U.S. per year, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
Sexual assault also triggers PTSD. The Department of Defense estimates that 26,000 military sexual assaults occurred in 2012, but less than 3,400 of those cases were reported. Victims include both women and men.
Last year, more than 500,000 military veterans received free treatment for PTSD. The Federal Way Vet Center opened in 2011 to provide this social service, at no cost, to eligible veterans and their families in South King County. This includes grief support for spouses and families whose loved one died during active military duty.
As a division of the VA, vet centers are found nationwide. The centers evolved from drop-in clinics created by soldiers who returned from Vietnam in the 1970s.
In fact, a lot of Vietnam veterans continue to seek treatment in 2013. Dr. Amy Morris, team leader at the Federal Way Vet Center, said the traumatic stress from combat can resurface in a veteran's retirement years, once the structure of a daily work routine is gone.
Morris has also noticed generational differences in PTSD and veterans, specifically with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Multiple deployments to the Middle East also means multiple attempts to reintegrate into society. Many of these servicemen and women have spouses and children waiting at home.
"Going into combat is hard enough," Morris said. "Each conflict we enter has its own set of circumstances that seems to express itself differently in PTSD."
The Federal Way Vet Center is located at 32020 32nd Ave. S., Suite 110, just east of the I-5 exit at South 320th Street. The vet center provides services including individual and group counseling, marital and family counseling, military sexual trauma counseling, and bereavement counseling. To schedule an appointment or learn more, call (253) 838-3090. Also visit www.vetcenter.va.gov.