Taking a closer look at PTSD

struggling with PTSD

Andrew O'Brien enlisted in the US Army when he was 19-years-old. In 2008, he was sent to Iraq.

He eventually ended up being a forward gunner on an Army Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle or M-RAP. It was while he was in that position, that a traumatic incident led to his Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

The traumatic incident

It was another M-RAP passed by his unit that was hit by an IED and the forward gunner on that vehicle was killed. O'Brien saw what was left of that carnage and it left him with images he'll never forget. So when he wanted to talk about the incident, it landed in the laps of people who didn't want to hear about it.

"And I was just done, I had all these dreams and all these nightmares and I had even gone and seen an Army counselor who had downplayed everything that I had told her and my 1st Sergeant had called me out in front of my whole company about my mental issues," O'Brien said.

So after that happened and O'Brien was discharged from the Army, he suffered like many soldiers do. It got to a point where he wanted to put a permanent end to his mental issues.

"And so I was like I don't deserve to feel this way because I know he saw so much worse then I did, and so I figured I would take my own life and not worry about it anymore," O'Brien explained.

O'Brien has turned the corner and wants to bring more awareness out into the open about PTSD and what services are out there for service men and women. He says he hopes that what he is doing will allow more of his fellow soldiers to get the help they need and not to suffer from the silent stalker.

Helping soldiers and their families

Service men and women are coming home from serving in Iraq or Afghanistan with lasting effects.

Many are continuing to suffer from the nightmares of combat.

The military is addressing concerns about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Even a decade ago Post Traumatic Stress Disorder wasn't talked about much. Getting help for PTSD was rare ... so was suicide prevention. But now, the Iowa National Guard is taking the issue head on and is being proactive in dealing with these types of issues.

Major Amy Price has been in the guard for nearly two decades. She says it's a 180 degree difference from when she first joined to what they're doing for soldiers today.

"When I first started in the military, once a year you would go into your annual briefing and you would hear a one hour power point presentation on suicide and it was basically a review of the signs and symptoms and don't commit suicide," Major Price said.

But now, PTSD and suicide are talked about openly.

"We started with some of the basics on suicide prevention. The ACE training which is Ask, Care and Escort," Major Price explained.

It took a long time to declare PTSD as a medical diagnosis.

"Post traumatic stress disorder is a medical diagnosis. And it's addressed as a medical diagnosis, not a personality weakness or a coping mechanism weakness," Major Anh Coble said.

So now when a soldier comes forward and says they think they're suffering from PTSD, the tools are there to help them begin the recovery.

"As the colonel mentioned if you had a physical injury like a broken leg you would not attempt to heal it yourself. But many times there is a misconception that a behavioral health injury is a weakness. Many of our soldiers unfortunately are suffering behavioral health issues attempt to heal themselves prior to reaching out for assistance," Major Coble said.

The National Guard hopes that what they're doing today will have a positive and lingering effect on their soldiers for years to come. They also hope the programs they have, will help heal the silent stalker.