Trigger warning: Mentions of death and trauma.
Such a deceptive word. Such an abstract concept. Such an elusive feeling.
But the guardians of peace, they’re as real and tangible as you and I. The Armed Forces lead lives that most of us cannot and they do so willingly, without an ounce of doubt or hesitation. And their mental health issues are as real and tangible as ours.
Those of us who lead relatively safe and peaceful lives do not appreciate the Army enough. Most troopers go unacknowledged and unnoticed despite their valiant attempts to safeguard our lives, and needless to say, once they retire, they do not get the right emotional support as they rightfully should.
‘Service Before Self’ is the motto of the Indian Army, and while it is very honourable, one has to wonder if it is a healthy idea. The ugly truth is that 11% to 20% of veterans suffer from mental illnesses such as PTSD, anxiety, and depression, stemming from their experiences in war.
Not many of us are familiar with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and so don’t recognize the symptoms that are right in front of our eyes. As the name suggests, a person develops PTSD due to trauma suffered in the past. In veterans, the trauma may be caused by killing someone, watching someone die, or even due to the sheer number of threats they face every day. It can be anything that is shocking and/or impactful enough for the person to feel disturbed by it. In fact, some veterans even see the intense training they go through as traumatic.
PTSD manifests itself in several ways. Some common symptoms are insomnia, restlessness, and anxiety and panic attacks, which will eventually lead to the person falling into a depression.
Army veterans are more commonly susceptible to PTSD in the form of insomnia and depression. Ever heard of soldiers unable to sleep due to recurring violent dreams? Chances are high that they are suffering from insomnia. Ever felt seen a veteran insisting on always being armed, scouting out all the exits in a place, and jumping at even the tiniest sounds? That could very well be anxiety and restlessness. All of which are indicators of PTSD.
So the question is, how do we deal with PTSD? Well, this is a very harmful mental health issue and needs to be treated immediately by qualified medical professionals. However, here are some quick tips that might help in the meantime:
- Go Outdoors: It is an old saying that there is no medicine quite like fresh air, and let me tell you, our elders knew what they were talking about. People suffering from PTSD quite commonly feel suffocated or claustrophobic, and pursuing outdoor activities like swimming and jogging can help in clearing your head, and will also help in improving your physical health.
- Develop Trust: Lack of trust and hopelessness accompany any and all forms of depression, and people suffering from PTSD, in particular, experience restlessness and anxiety because of loss of trust in people around them. So the solution is to trust that you are safe. Trust in the future. And most importantly, trust in yourself.
- Get Support: There is nothing wrong in asking for help. Confiding your worries in at least one person and getting support from them will prove to be extremely helpful. There are so many loved ones waiting to support and encourage you. The only thing you need to do is ask.
- Ground Yourself: When you feel a panic attack coming on, or when you feel depression weighing down on you, try to calm yourself down through small distractions. You can try humming your favourite song, or counting to 1000, or even reciting the alphabets backwards. If you are in a quiet place, you can also practice meditation or pranayama. They not only help in regulating your body functions but also prove effective in stopping your attacks.
We often think of army men and women as being these infallible heroes. And while they deserve to be celebrated as such, one has to remember that they are as much flesh-and-blood as any living being, and hence frequently fall prey to illnesses.
Because denial is the first barrier to treating PTSD; it’s not only the people around who are in denial but oftentimes the people themselves deny that there is anything wrong with them. This is especially true of veterans, who easily dismiss the symptoms of PTSD and other disorders because they feel that they do not have the liberty to show weaknesses.
What they don’t realise is that our weaknesses are what make us human.
Team LonePack salutes all soldiers and veterans, and wishes them a very happy National Army Day!
Thank you for your service.