June 27 marks National Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Day, a day devoted to generating awareness of PTSD—a mental health issue that may develop in those who have experienced traumatic events. We sat down with Steve Schliesman, Army Lieutenant Colonel (Retired) and vice president and general manager of Cognosante’s Military and Veterans Health business unit to gather his thoughts on PTSD and its effects on those who have served.
Q: Why is PTSD awareness so important?
Schliesman: For many service members, the fight is not over when they leave the battlefield. For any of a multitude of reasons, the deep emotional and mental wounds suffered during battle are as traumatic and life-impacting as physical injury. The challenge is many of these scars cannot be seen because they are carried on the inside. Combined with the years of military training, the discipline, and the personal pride that results from wearing a uniform, those suffering from PTSD may be the least likely to seek help or acknowledge the burden they are carrying. PTSD awareness is critical in ensuring that we as a society take care of the total health of our service members and Veterans—addressing the injuries and wounds we can see, as well as those we can’t see.
Q: How has PTSD impacted you, or those around you?
Schliesman: Having spent 22 years in the Army, I have a close personal circle of friends and family that have served in the military. All of us have many memories—both good and bad—of our time serving. But in that same circle are those friends and family whose memories are far too vivid, and have manifested themselves in their personalities, impacting their day-to-day lives. Having seen the change and impact PTSD has on those I know so dearly, I know that PTSD isn’t just a personal wound, but an injury that impacts family members and communities alike.
Q: What do you think about the availability of mental health resources for Veterans?
Schliesman: Having worked in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for several years, I am confident that the importance of PTSD awareness and treatment is becoming a national priority. Unfortunately, so much has yet to be learned about this condition, and more importantly, how to treat it. Especially with the unfortunate personal stigma that prevents some from seeking help, I regret to think that it may be some time before we completely find a way to diagnose and treat those needing assistance.
Q: How can our society better help Veterans suffering from PTSD?
Schliesman: Society, especially those closest to service members and Veterans, is the key to the success in improving PTSD awareness, and bringing assistance to those who may be in need. Friends and family are most likely to notice the subtle changes in those that may be having difficulties. They are also the ones able to ask and communicate with those suffering. Through personal caring and devotion, we can remove the personal or emotional barriers that might prevent a service member or Veteran from seeking further information or treatment. Our nation’s service members and Veterans have spent years serving a cause larger than themselves, and I think it is only right that we all take time to help those who have served us so well.
Additional information regarding PTSD and Cognosante’s efforts in improving the lives of Veterans can be found here. We can all play a part in helping those affected by PTSD through support and understanding. Cognosante is dedicated to helping spread public awareness of post-traumatic stress disorder and sharing the knowledge that it can be treated effectively. The early recognition of symptoms is important, and encouraging those suffering to seek help in a supportive manner is meaningful. It is through spreading the word about PTSD and its treatments and letting people know that they are not alone, that we can make a difference for the individuals, families, and communities affected.