Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder


Sounds of Freedom Sounds off on Current Statistics about PTSD


Post-traumatic stress disorder is an extremely prevalent condition among military veterans. Life-threatening events such as being in combat or experiencing trauma in a non-combat situation can lead to symptoms of PTSD, including recurring memories or nightmares of the event, sleeplessness, loss of interest in life, anger, irritability, jumpiness, a tendency toward isolation and more. Sometimes these symptoms don’t surface for months or years after the event occurred or until a return from deployment – but whenever they strike they can have a drastic effect on a vet’s life.


According to the National Institutes of Health, Department of Veterans Affairs and Sidran Institute, the societal and economic burden of PTSD is extremely heavy. The suicide rate for returning members of the military is higher than the combat casualty rate. And currently, only 1% of the population is at war, as opposed to 25% of the population during World War II. Thus, empathy for the plight of the soldier after combat is at an all-time low.


Veterans returning from war face a whole slew of issues that aren’t being addressed or recognized. Their health benefits have been slashed. It’s difficult for vets to get access to mental health because of the stigma surrounding it. According to the American Psychological Association, two-thirds of homeless Iraq and Afghanistan veterans had PTSD, a much higher percentage than earlier groups of veterans. That’s because all Iraq and Afghanistan vets were deployed and many saw combat while many of their counterparts in previous eras weren’t deployed.


A study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration revealed that only 50% of returning vets who need mental health treatment will receive it. The National Institute of Drug Abuse reported that substance abuse among vets is strongly correlated to their exposure to combat. Another study found that 25% of returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans showed signs of substance abuse disorders. 39% of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are reported to have alcohol abuse issues.


The average cost for first-year treatment for a recent vet with PTSD is $8,300. This cost alone is enough to prevent most suffering vets from getting the help they need. RAND reported that 50% of those with PTSD don’t seek treatment. And of the remaining 50% that do, only half of them get “minimally adequate” treatment. That means that the majority of these soldiers who bravely gave their service to our country are not getting the care they need.

Sounds of Freedom: The Series bravely brings these issues to the forefront. During a climate of increased US military action, we need to be asking ourselves how someone who has suffered from a traumatic experience can best transition back into society. Director Holly Chadwick dares to explore that question with Sounds of Freedom. After Vietnam, the question of how vets might adapt was considered, but not remembered now. There were movies like Deer Hunter and Apocalypse Now that helped to bring the plight of returning soldiers to the forefront of our minds. But fewer movies explore this topic today, another reason veterans often feel that the majority of the country is ignoring their concerns.


Returning soldiers should not have to fight at home for medical and financial benefits. The lack of societal empathy when a government does not care for its citizens causes a ripple effect that affects the rest of the population. Mental illness prevails, homelessness rates rise, and crimes from homicide to rape all increase, affecting the population at large. Sounds of Freedom aims to foreground these issues by taking a deeper look at the prevalence, and effects, of PTSD on returning soldiers.

For help and a great resource on PTSD, visit the Veteran Benefit Options at the National Council for Aging Care.