America’s military and war veterans have devoted much of their lives to serve and protect our country. Unfortunately, a substantial number of our veterans suffer from PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder. This mental health problem often afflicts people who have experienced trauma in their lives, from war and combat to serious disasters, accidents, or assaults.
Symptoms can include recurring flashbacks of the event, nightmares, and frightening thoughts. In some cases, physical symptoms such as sweating, shaking, a racing heart and more can occur. A person with PTSD may feel a range of emotions. They may be disinterested, restless, uneasy, and/or angry. A number become depressed and may withdraw from the world around them. People with PTSD face higher than average rates of depression, substance abuse, and varying anxiety disorders. PTSD can affect cognitive and mood behavior, rendering daily tasks and relationships difficult to handle.
The good news is that focus and care for our veterans with PTSD is continually improving. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, or VA, has announced the launch of a pilot telehealth program for rural vets with PTSD. The goal is to give affected veterans remote access to psychotherapy and related services to prevent long distance travel from being a barrier to receiving adequate mental health care. Per Dr. John Fortney, a research health scientist at the VA Puget Sound Health Care System in Seattle, Washington, “In a prior trial, we were able to use telehealth technologies successfully to engage Veterans in evidence-based, trauma-focused therapy without their having to travel to a distant VA medical center.” Thus far, over 500 rural veterans who are not receiving “specialty PTSD care” have enrolled in the program.