Friday, June 5, 2009

Life with PTSD, Words From a Veteran

Life with PTSD, Words From a Veteran

May 20, 2009
Military Health System

Today we hear from retired Command Sgt. Maj. Samuel Marvin Rhodes Sr.

After 29 years of military service, I recently retired and began a new chapter in my service to my country and comrades. As someone who had struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), I have been traveling across the United States to share my personal experience with veterans and active duty service members, and encourage them to acknowledge and seek help for mental health issues such as depression and PTSD.

When I returned from the war, I found myself struggling with thoughts of suicide and would often wake from dreams wherein I would replay scenes of explosions and gunfire in my mind. One day while attending a course at Fort Jackson, it all came full circle and I found myself crying continuously for about an hour, thinking about those soldiers who died in Iraq. After being diagnosed with PTSD while deployed in 2005, I decided to seek help, reminding myself how valuable my life is to my loved ones. After getting treatment, I found my voice and an inspiration within to share my story with other members of the military.

In my discussions with service members I not only encourage them to speak with loved ones about their struggles but direct them to resources such as the Military Pathways Program. This program offers service members, veterans, and their families the opportunity to take free, anonymous self-assessments in the privacy of their homes -- online and via the telephone. The self-assessments are a series of questions that, when linked together, help create a picture of how an individual is feeling. They address a variety of issues including depression, PTSD, and alcohol problems. After completing the self-assessment, individuals receive referral information including services available to them through TRICARE, Military OneSource and Vet Centers. These self-assessments can be accessed at: and 877-877-3647.

In recognition of May being Mental Health Month, I would ask anyone who has a family member or friend in the military or knows a proud veteran, to encourage them to seek help if they are struggling. Asking for help is a sign of courage, not weakness.

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