MARTINSBURG, W.Va (WDVM) — The VA Medical Center in Martinsburg, West Virginia, treats about 220 veterans each year who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder — or PTSD. Jennifer Riley, the PTSD Program Director, says some receive up to 90 days of residential treatment in a dormitory-type setting.
“Our residential program is one of the best in the country,” said Riley. “It’s a 50-bed facility on the VA campus.”
There is also an outpatient facility at Martinsburg for veterans who live in the Eastern Panhandle and neighboring states like southern Pennsylvania, northern Virginia and the District of Columbia. In addition to on-campus treatment, Riley says about 400 veterans are treated for PTSD on an outpatient basis.
Riley told WDVM’s Ross Simpson that there are also a few clinics that specialize in PTSD treatment.
“That doesn’t mean there are not other levels of care within the VA.”
People can seek care for PTSD in the primary care area and at the Vet Center. Like Dr. Mark Mann, Chief of Mental Health Issues at Martinsburg, Riley believes the fear of rejection by people they care about most in their lives is the reason many veterans are reluctant to seek help at the VA.
“I think a lot of times, our society has not been as easy to admit there’s a problem, that people need help,” said Riley.
Veterans can run, but they can’t hide from their demons.
“A lot of times, we refer to it as the DARKNESS,” said Riley, “That dark part of you might be about things you’ve done or seen that has created darkness in your life.”
Sadly, a lot of veterans suffer from survivor’s guilt. They can’t understand why they lived and a buddy beside them in a firefight died.
“Survivor’s Guilt is one of the symptoms of PTSD — the guilt you feel from what you did like taking another person’s life,” said Riley
There is no silver bullet; no cure for PTSD.
“We can’t remove the fact that this traumatic experience has happened,” said Riley.
“We can’t re-ring the bell,” said Riley, “We can’t pull that traumatic experience out of your brain so you don’t remember it anymore. Instead, it’s about how can you learn ways to manage PTSD, so you can enjoy the quality of life — things like a meaningful relationship that you want. But regretfully, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is never going to leave you.”
A study in the United Kingdom concluded that this is why someone can’t just get over it or move on with their lives after experiencing a traumatic event. This is also why their symptoms can be life-changing; both mental and physical.