HUNTINGTON, WV (WOWK) – The statistics are troubling. Between seven and eight out of 100 veterans suffer from some form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – PTSD. Many of them do not get the help they need.
After one of his many deployments in 2011, Air Force Senior Airman Loy Nelson, a combat medic, was one of them.
Nelson recalled the stress building up from a number of factors – horrifying images of war, the grueling task of treating fellow troops and even losing one of his friends to war and about 10 others took their own lives.
The stress began to take a toll on him.
“Lots of sleeplessness … just the anxiety … obviously the stints of depression here and there,” he recalled.
He eventually would seek treatment, thanks mostly to his future wife Captain Holli Nelson.
“He was a single soldier living in the barracks … spent a lot of time drinking and was very closed off,” Holli remembered. “And he later told me you saved me. he was in a bad spot.”
There is hope.
Having a support system is one of the ways veterans with PTSD like Loy Nelson can learn to open up and begin the process of healing.
Having the tools to know what to say and how to listen is a critical part of being able to help a service member who suffers from PTSD.
“It can be hard to hear about what your loved one went through and hear what they’re struggling with … and if you’re not ready then that sometimes doesn’t help so much the other person feel comfortable disclosing to you,” said Dr. Billy Rutherford, who treats veterans with PTSD at the Hershel “Woody” WIlliams VA center in Huntington, WV.
“People that are better at doing that … avoiding in the short-term … are the people most likely to have PTSD symptoms longer-term,” said Rutherform.
The VA now offers what’s called “evidence-based therapies” in groups or one-on-one sessions.
“And what exposure means in some way … working with … recalling … processing thoughts, feelings and images rather than avoid those images and sticking them in the back of your mind.”
There are a number other forms of therapy like these:
- prolonged exposure (pe)
- cognitive processing therapy (cpt)
- eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing (emdr)
They help PTSD patients face negative feelings … reframe negative thoughts … or making sense of the trauma.
Clinical trials are showing promise in their evidence-based therapies.
Today, Loy and Holli Nelson are finding comfort in the fact that they have the tools needed to help Loy face PTSD head on.
They have their challenges, but they are happy they sought treatment together.
“It’s hard. We’ve had bad days. we don’t have it together all the time. and it’s frustrating when he doesn’t want to talk to me about it,” said Holli. “But I’m glad that we were able to get him help …and I’m glad that he’s doing better. “
Information that will help you get help with PTSD:
Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255 Press 1
General information about PTSD: https://www.va.gov/opa/issues/ptsd.asp
Mobile phone APPS: https://mobile.va.gov/app/ptsd-coach
Stories of recovery: https://maketheconnection.net/
Hershel “Woody” Williams VA Center: https://www.huntington.va.gov/
locations: https://www.va.gov/directory/GUIDE/facility.asp?ID=395 Vet Center